Steans Center > About > Initiatives > Sustainable Urban Food Systems

Sustainable Urban Food Systems

​​​The Sustainable Urban Food Systems Initiative seeks to channel DePaul resources toward the development of a socially, economically and environmentally sustainable food system in the Chicago Metropolitan Region.

The Initiative supports curriculum development focused on sustainable urban food systems, community-based research, student and faculty technical assistance, service-learning projects and paid internships. Many DePaul Students involved in the initiative have taken the lead by creating the DePaul Urban Garden and UFO (Urban Farming Organization).

The Steans Center is also a co-founder and member of the Chicago Urban Agriculture Mapping Project​.​​

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, the U.S., and international campaigns to address food insecurity and injustice.

The Steans Center is participating in 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 was completed in 2014, resulted 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. 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. The results of this study was 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 and inventory of urban agriculture in Chicago.

Curriculum development and CbR related to community food systems have resulted in numerous service-learning projects and community internships. Since 2009, the Center 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, and Urban Habitat Chicago.