For the better part of ten years, the Seaway Bank Farmers Market has been instrumental in helping the Chatham neighborhood, located on the South Side of Chicago, fight off its status as a food desert. Defined as a neighborhood or area where affordable and healthy foods and produce are difficult to obtain, particularly by residents without access to an automobile, food deserts leave many residents dependent on non-healthy fast food outlets.
Every Wednesday from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. the Seaway Bank parking lot, located at 645 E. 87th St., is transformed into a thriving and bustling market filled with organic produce grown in Illinois by African American farmers from Pembroke Township, fresh tomatoes, greens ,and squash grown at the Mary Helen Community Garden located nearby at 97th and Vincennes Ave., in addition to various other healthy items from other vendors.
Thanks to a grant provided by LINK Up Illinois, a program of Experimental Station, residents of the neighborhood now have an extra incentive to visit and support the market. While funds last, LINK card users will have their purchase of fresh fruits and veggies matched up to $10 once a week through Sept. 24, 2014.
“Giving access to healthy foods in urban areas where they are oftentimes, unavailable, or unaffordable is key to achieving our mission,” said Anderson Griffin, owner of Mary Helen Community Garden. “Our goal is to enhance the community by beautifying, educating and growing fresh produce, and we are thankful that we are able to share our harvest with the community at the Seaway Farmers Market each week.”
A newer vendor at the market, The Mary Helen Community Garden was cultivated in a vacant lot by Mary Helen Davis back in 2008. When she passed away in 2010, her son, Anderson Griffin continued her work and keeps her legacy going strong with the help of fellow members of the community.
“Kids are going back-to-school and the summer break might be at its end, but the harvest season is well upon us and we will have fresh, seasonal vegetables and fruits at the market until the very last day,” said Griffin.
Since being created in 1965 to counter the discriminatory banking practices often used against minorities, Seaway Bank has been a pillar in the community serving families, businesses, churches, and nonprofit organizations. The farmers market was created in 2005 in conjunction with the bank’s 40th anniversary to reinforce the bank’s mission to provide quality services to the community. In 2008, the market was granted status as an independent market by the city of Chicago and now operates under the auspices of the Mayor’s Office of Special Events.