Steans Center > About > Initiatives


The Steans Center develops special initiatives that it seeks to develop into full-fledged sustainable programming in support of students, community partners and faculty. The Catholic Schools Initiative, for example, developed over several years into Catholic School Partnerships.

Currently, the Center is involved in initiatives related to sustainable food system development, support of public schools that are struggling to meet achievement standards, and development of Veterans educational and support resources.

Community Foods Systems Initiative

The Community Food Systems Initiative seeks to channel DePaul resources toward the resolution of food access challenges among Chicago residents. The Initiative supports development of new curriculum focused on sustainable urban food systems, community-based research projects driven by DePaul community partners, and service-learning projects and paid internships supporting community food projects in economically distressed neighborhoods. DePaul Students have also taken the lead by creating the DePaul Urban Garden and UFO (Urban Farming Organization).

Curricular Development

In partnership with the Department of Environmental Science and Studies and the Department of Geography, the Center recently supported curricular development for courses such as ENV 345 Urban Agriculture, CSS 320 Community Food Systems, and GEO 351 Geography, Food and Justice. Through employing service-learning and activist learning pedagogies with Chicago and international partners, these courses engage students directly with local and global food systems issues, while they contribute to creating a more just food system. Students from these courses are actively supporting community food projects through Chicago and U.S. and international campaigns to address food insecurity and injustice. ​

Community-based Research

The Steans Center is participating several community-based research (CbR) projects in support of sustainable food systems development in Chicago. Since 2002, the Center has involved students in neighborhood food access research through service-learning courses many of which included CbR. Students contributed to studies in the Austin, Humboldt Park and Little Village Neighborhood. In 2011, the Center's director, Dr. Howard Rosing, created the Chicago Community Gardeners Study focused on developing a data collection process to document and analyze the motivations and challenges faced by gardeners in neighborhoods underserved by the retail food sector. The study, which will be completed in 2014, will result in an ongoing tracking system to identify challenges faced by community gardeners and to seek solutions through collaboratively designed service-learning and internship projects. The study led to several new community-university partnerships and during 2012 and 2013 the Center participated in the Harvest Study, a study led by Neighborspace​, the city's community garden land trust, documenting the city-wide yield, distribution and nutritional value of food from community gardens. Results of this study will be published in 2014, but data has already spurred further development of a longstanding effort to develop a city-wide map and inventory of urban agriculture. CUAMP (Chicago Urban Agriculture Mapping Project) is a multi-institutional collaboration involving some 10 or so groups representing not-for-profits, community organizations, universities, and practitioners. The group has been meeting since 2010, to collaboratively develop a publicly accessible map an inventory of urban agriculture in Chicago.

Service Learning and Community Internships

Curriculum development and CbR related to community food systems has resulted in numerous service-learning projects and community internships. Since 2009, the Center's has a longstanding partnership with Gary Comer Youth Center (GCYC) to support the Environmental Stewardship Community Internship, involving two full-time interns working with GCYC's summer Green Teens program. GCYC hosts a rooftop garden and urban farm where service learning students and interns mentor youth while learning urban farming skills. Service-learning students have also been actively involved with community food projects with community-based organizations such as A Just Harvest, Enlace Chicago, La Casa Norte and Urban Habitat Chicago. Recently McCormick Community Interns have been actively supporting program development at the Peterson Garden Project's new site in the Rogers Park neighborhood and the new online resource INuag.