A group of teenagers from Austin got a boost from Chicago professional athletes to open a new food market for the Austin community.
Austin, with only two stores where residents can buy healthy fresh food, has long been known as a food desert even while the neighborhood had 12 liquor stores.
According to a story on Block Club Chicago, the teens got the idea to open a new grocery in listening circle discussions in the wake of the protests over the police killing of George Floyd and the ensuing violence and looting. The listening circles were run by the By the Hand Club for Kids, an Austin-area youth empowerment group, and included pro athletes, Chicago police officers, representatives from the anti-violence group BUILD, and the Westside Health Authority. Teens said they were “frustrated” that Austin’s few grocery stores had to close temporarily after being looted.
Chicago athletes stepped in to help. Former Chicago Bears linebacker Sam Acho, who already had a relationship helping teens with By the Hand, recruited other pro players to raise $500,000 for the effort. Other athletes included Blackhawks Captain Jonathan Toews, Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky, Bulls guard Max Strus, White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito, Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward, St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, and several others.
This is what change looks like. Just got together pro athletes from the @ChicagoBears @chicagobulls @whitesox @NHLBlackhawks @packers @Panthers and @Saints. We invited @nflcommish and @chicagosmayor. We listened to kids and learned about their dream for a better Chicago. pic.twitter.com/sQpnmnPiMj— Sam Acho (@TheSamAcho) July 7, 2020
Teens, athletes, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Alderwoman Emma Mitts, Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown, and others were on hand with sledgehammers to start the process of razing the building at 423 N. Laramie Ave. The hope is to open the new food market sometime in August.
By the Hand will work with the Hatchery Chicago, a nonprofit that helps local entrepreneurs develop food and beverage businesses, to set up the new grocery. Teens will be able to work at the market and learn entrepreneurship and business skills such as licensing and customer service. The Hatchery will also create a culinary pathways program so teens can see careers in the food industry, according to the Block Club Chicago story.
An interview with Sam Acho describing the plans ran on CBS channel 2 news. You can watch the interview on the By the Hand website.