CHICAGO – An advocate for local food producers, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon put on her gardening gloves today and joined Kendall College culinary students for the annual spring planting of their urban garden.
Simon applauded the college for incorporating locally grown food in its classrooms and restaurant for the past five years, and voiced her support for regulations expanding city farming and local food sales across the state. Illinoisans spend roughly $48 billion annually on food, but just $2 billion of that amount is on food grown in Illinois, Simon said.
“The seeds we plant today are a small part of a larger public health movement to end food deserts and grow a local food economy in Chicago and across the state,” said Simon, chair of the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council. “The connections Kendall College students make from farm to classroom to table are critical components of sustainable living.”
Kendall began its garden in 2007 as an educational initiative to teach students about the importance of locally grown food and uses its harvest in dishes served at its renowned fine-dining restaurant, The Dining Room at Kendall College. Each year, the garden produces about 2,000 to 3,000 pounds of produce, including blackberries, rhubarb, kale, and red beets.
“At Kendall College, sustainability is an integral part of our curriculum and operations,” said Kendall College President Emily Williams Knight. “We are committed to teaching today’s students, who are tomorrow’s foodservice professionals, the importance of local and sustainable food, and are proud that this will continue to have a positive impact on our local community.”
On behalf of the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council, Simon is working to increase the number of farmers markets that accept food stamp benefits known as LINK and favors creating regional food hubs that will help local producers to store, process and market items in-state. She also supported two successful measures last year that aim to increase access to locally produced foods:
- Public Act 097-0393 helped clear the way for family and community farms to enter boutique food production while maintaining public health. State law now allows “cottage food” producers to sell certain homemade goods at farmers markets. All food items must have a Food Service Sanitation Management Certificate, be accompanied by appropriate labels listing all ingredients, and identify that products are homemade, among other regulations.
- To create green jobs, combat food deserts and improve public health, Simon recommended the Chicago City Council give community gardens and urban farms the right to locate on vacant land in residential areas and allow them to operate seasonal stands to sell fresh produce to local residents. The city adopted an urban farm-friendly zoning ordinance in September that expanded the size of community gardens and relaxed costly parking and fencing rules.
Kendall’s urban farm is managed by City Farm, the Resource Center’s urban agriculture program, which turns fallow, vacant land into productive farmland. The college has received national recognition for its sustainability initiatives, including being named an official educational partner of the National Restaurant Association’s Conserve: Solutions for Sustainability initiative; instituting a comprehensive composting and recycling program throughout all kitchens; being named the first institution with an accredited culinary-arts program to operate Green Certified Restaurants, and receiving the first Green Award earned by any culinary-arts program globally by the Foodservice Consultants Society International (FCSI).
For photos of the Lt. Governor's visit to Kendall College, please click here.