Evanston Food Council was founded in 2005 as part of a larger community sustainability group, Network for Evanston’s Future (founded in 1999). NEF was a grassroots action-oriented organization whose primary operating principles were:
- Only take on projects if there are people who want to do them and can commit to doing them.
- Keep working on projects only if we’re making progress and having a good time.
By 2008, NEF had spun off 7 independent groups:
- Evanston Interreligious Sustainability Circle (the original group, which still exists)
- Evanston’s Transportation Future
- Evanston’s Affordable Housing Future (which became a 501c3 land trust)
- Evanston’s Energy Future
- Evanston Food Policy Council (which created a 501c3 urban farm, The Talking Farm)
In 2008, NEF, through its facilitation of funding for the City of Evanston’s first Sustainability Coordinator, partnered with the City to write a Climate Action Plan. Following the adoption of the plan, NEF morphed into Citizens Greener Evanston, the primary implementing group for the Climate Action Plan.
Evanston Food Council remains an independent, grassroots organization, with no funding, no hierarchy, no restrictions other than our own energies. This proved a very successful model for 6 years, but intensive volunteer initiatives are not sustainable. In 2012, the Evanston Food Council is in transition.
Network for Evanston’s Future – Earth Month Events: two forums on food.
- “Our Food: What we Don’t Know” (co-sponsored with Beth Emet Synagogue). Speakers on pesticides, bio-tech foods, water shortage, factory farms, sustainable agriculture. Keynote speaker: Fred Kirschenmann, Director of Leopold Center. Moderated by Liane Casten.
- “Our Food: The Local Story” (reconnecting to our local food system). Panel: Terra Brockman (The Land Connection), Christie Phillips (Illinois Stewardship Alliance), Portia Belloc-Lowndes (Slow Food), Michael Altenberg (Campagnola), Steve Parks (New Leaf grocers). Moderated by Debbie Hillman.
General organizational history
Evanston Food Policy Council founded by Catherine Buntin and Debbie Hillman based on wide interest in food issues, as demonstrated by the two Earth Month events.
- Mission Statement (original): Evanston Food Policy Council is a citizens group working to ensure everyone’s access to a safe and diverse regional food supply and to foster awareness of healthy food choices. We advocate sustainable agricultural policies, support organic growing practices, and promote active urban-rural connections through our local food system.
- Monthly meetings initiated. First meeting held August 2005, Unitarian Church.
- Monthly meetings reformatted in partnership with Wild Tree Cafe. Partnered with local cafe to host monthly EFPC meetings combined with a community potluck. Meetings were re-organized to have a central topic, with featured speakers. Topics and speakers were chosen to be timely and action-oriented, especially through identifying local projects that needed more concentrated support. Topics included: Evanston farmers markets, Cook County Farm Bureau, co-ops and buying clubs, joyful eating (self-determined nutrition), school gardens.
- Moved monthly meetings to Boocoo Cultural Center.
- Community Meeting with Westside Food Collaborative. February EFPC meeting was devoted to finding a way to bridge entrenched racial and economic segregation in Evanston.
- Last Monthly Meeting held at Boocoo.
- Name change. Announced name change to “Evanston Food Council” at Citizens’ Greener Evanston “Local Food Panel” featuring Terra Brockman (The Land Connection) and Debbie Hillman (EFC).
- In transition while funding is sought.
- Interim mission statement: Evanston Food Council is an action-oriented grassroots group working to ensure everyone’s access to a safe, high quality, diverse food supply through the design and implementation of a fair and sustainable community-based food and farm economy.
- Film screening and discussion: Future of Food (co-sponsored with ReelTime). First of numerous film presentations.
- Illinois Food, Farms, and Jobs Act. First met with State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg and State Rep. Julie Hamos to communicate to urban legislators why their constituents are concerned about food and agricultural issues. Rep. Hamos wrote Illinois Food, Farms, and Jobs Act (passed in 2007).
- Urban Farm Community Support Meeting At the suggestion of Linda Kruhmin, with the technical assistance of Harry Rhodes, a public meeting was held to gauge interest and support for an urban farm, presented as (1) a foundation for every healthy community and (2) a concrete project that would facilitate conversations about food and farm policy. Panel: Harry Rhodes, Patsy Benveniste, Michael Thompson, Michael Marcus.
- The Talking Farm–the Farm with Something to Say. Created as a production-level urban farm with an educational mission: The Talking Farm cultivates healthy, sustainable communities by supporting the production and appreciation of locally grown food.
- City of Evanston Strategic Planning Process: Advocated to include food in new Evanston Strategic Plan. One of sixteen overall Goals in the adopted Plan: “Goal #13: Strive to ensure that all Evanston residents have access to health care, as well as basic food, housing and shelter.”
- The Land Connection opens Evanston office to preserve farmland, train new farmers, and to grow a local food system. EFC helped open office, find board members, build capacity.
- City of Evanston hearings on beekeeping. Supported and participated in 6-month process to confirm the on-going legality of beekeeping in Evanston, in support of an Evanston resident who brought this issue to the city.
Film Library and Film Outreach Program
Based on growing library of films and popularity of film programs, Carole Mark began outreach program to show films to community groups in connection with post-film discussions. Developed list of “Films on Food, Farms, and Food Systems”.
Film screenings (representative list)
2006 Future of Food
2006 The Real Dirt on Farmer John
2006 Unnatural Selection
2006 How to get Fat without Really Trying
2007 Supersize Me
2007 The Power of Community
2008 What Will We Eat? – The Search for Healthy Local Food
2008 The World According to Monsanto
2008 As We Sow
2009 The Garden
2009 Mad City Chickens
- Evanston Farmers Markets. Main market: Worked with the City on various market issues at the main market, as the staff support changed and citizen involvement increased. New markets: Worked closely with market manager Alison Witt to support the newly created Ridgeville Park District market. At request of alderwoman Delores Holmes, facilitated conversations to create a new market in 5h ward.
- City of Evanston Climate Action Plan. Participated in writing food section recommendations.
- West End Market. Helped to create a farmers market in 5th Ward. Implementation led by Leadership Evanston group (Evanston Community Foundation). Positioned as an economic development project, the market also provides vendor space for community members to sell their own products (food and non-food).
- Edible Acre Pilot Project at Evanston Township High School. EFPC, TTF, and ETHS agree to create 1/8-acre pilot community garden and outdoor classroom through conversion of an empty lot into a community garden that will be designed, implemented, and partially maintained by ETHS students in collaboration with the residents, businesses, ETHS, and other neighborhood stakeholders.
- Healthy Community Task Force, Dist. 65/202 PTA Council. Facilitated and supported the creation of a task force of the Evanston/Skokie D65/D202 PTA Council to work on food and nutrition, health and wellness, green issues.
- Second Chance formed. Supported initiative to start an ex-offender food entrepreneurship program buying and selling fresh food in order to support their families. Initiated by five African American churches joining with ECDC (local community development organization in 5th ward) and Boocoo Cultural Center.
- Westside Food Collaborative. Partnered with residents of Evanston’s West side (long-standing African-American community) to address availability of fresh produce, outreach and education aimed at changing the food consumption behaviors of children and adults, outreach aimed at increasing the numbers of low-income residents involved with existing food sustainability initiatives, urban gardening, and other food based microenterprises.
- SAGE (Schools Are Gardening in Evanston/Skokie). Facilitated creation of a group for school garden coordinators to promote a healthy future for children by supporting edible, sustainable school gardens.
- Evanston Backyard Chicken Committee. At a screening of Mad City Chickens, chairperson Ellen King was announced, committee formed to draft an ordinance that would allow residents to have chickens.
- Chicken Ordinance passed. City of Evanston enacted coop licensing law, allowing up to 6 chickens
- LEAD Community Garden concept paper. Partnership with City of Evanston to create a 1-year community gardening project, mentoring 12 groups to produce, sell, and/or donate food and non-food products. Tied to Climate Change plan, economic development, and scaling up food literacy.
- Friends of the Evanston Farmers Markets created. On-going technical assistance.
- Oakton Community College. Faculty development workshops on food systems organized and presented. Helped faculty create service learning projects. Repeated in 2011.
- Evanston Hometown Harvest 2012. Concept paper: Participatory budgeting + food system
- Evanston Soil Builders. Concept paper: food scrap composting + yard waste operation
- Westside Food Collaborative (Evanston). Proposal to create “urban food and farm cooperative”.
- New Leaf Urban Garden. Formed in conjunction with Second Chance (at Boocoo, Evanston)