How do you motivate and make it easier for Chicagoans to grow their own food? That's the problem students at Archeworks, the one-year design program in Chicago that focuses on social and environmental urban design, were tasked with finding a solution to. They were asked to create an "Urban Farm Tool," something that could be used in the creation of an urban agriculture site and moved to a new location once the first urban farm became established. The result of their year-long effort is the Mobile Food Collective, an ingenious set of projects centered on making all aspects of healthy food easily accessible in Chicago.
The Mobile Food Collective's design team consisted of students, Geoffrey Salvatore, Maria Kulesa, Catherine Muller, Adam Panza, Derek Layes, and Rachel Belanger. Recently, the students took the Mobile Unit (pictured above), which looks like a farm stand on wheels, onto Chicago's streets for the first time.
"The Mobile Unit is a hub for meetings, storage, and a variety of programming," Says Rachel Belanger, one of this year's graduates who worked on the Mobile Food Collective project. The students envision the Mobile Unit as the place where communities will come together and participate in their food heritage. At the Mobile Unit people can gather for discussions, to archive recipes, exchange seeds, share meals and participate in demonstrations on planting, growing and cooking their own food.
A fleet of bikes with custom trailers accompanies the Mobile Unit. The bikes carry farming and gardening tools and transport the "mods," the nesting storage bins below the table, which house programming material. The accompanying bikes can also be used to deliver CSA boxes and are dispersed throughout a community to alert and direct residents to programming happening at the Mobile Unit.
The Mobile Food Collective has two smaller projects in the works that will compliment the Mobile Unit. "Growables," kits for growing food in the style of the popular Lunchables. They're also designing a transit map that pinpoints farmers markets and urban farm sites along each of the CTA train lines, so riders can see what ingredients are available along their daily routes.
"Our idea is fairly simple: growing your own food will be more rewarding if you know how to cook and have someone to share a meal with," says Rachel Belanger.
The Mobile Food Collective could very well be the answer to Chicago's food desert problem.
The Gary Comer Youth Center in the Grand Crossing neighborhood will be the first organization to take advantage of the Mobile Unit and bike fleet. The organization already has a rooftop farm and several after school programs in gardening and culinary arts.
This summer the Mobile Unit will be part of the Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale. Archeworks was founded in 1993 by internationally known architect Stanley Tigerman, FAIA and award winning designer Eva Maddox FIIDA and is located in the River North neighborhood.
Archeworks students were also responsible for the design of the pocket park in Litter Village I blogged about last year.