Farming Chicago: Prospects for Higher Education Support of Sustainable Urban Food Systems in the U.S. Heartland


  • Howard Rosing DePaul University
  • Daniel R. Block Chicago State University



Chicago, Higher education, Food systems, Community-university partnerships, Sustainability


The article highlights recent food policies in Chicago with the goal of exploring how higher education institutions can contribute to development of sustainable food resources for residents of North American cities. Thousands of Chicago residents face daily challenges accessing fresh food due to income constraints and/or lack of proximity to food retailers. Concomitantly, the city’s high dependency on imported food, often from thousands of miles away, is countered by growing interest in local production in community gardens and urban farms. The article outlines efforts at redeveloping Chicago into a thriving producer of fresh food through advocacy, policy making, and planning; and curriculum and community engagement efforts at Chicago area universities and colleges that exemplifies higher education’s role in creating a just and ecologically sustainable urban food system. The examples illustrate the importance of multi-institutional collaboration, often driven by community-based advocacy groups that facilitate local food research, technical assistance, and policy initiatives with support from universities and colleges. The article therefore highlights the supportive role urban higher education institutions can play in building food systems that support the local food economy, contribute to improving the natural environment, and expand access to nutritious fresh food for those with the least wherewithal. 

Author Biographies

Howard Rosing, DePaul University

Howard Rosing, PhD, is a cultural anthropologist and the Executive Director of the Steans Center for Community-based Service Learning and Community Service Studies at DePaul University. He is co-director of DePaul’s graduate program in Sustainable Urban Development (SUD) and his research focuses on urban food access, economic restructuring, community food systems, and food justice movements in Chicago and the Dominican Republic. He is co-developer of the Chicago Urban Agriculture Mapping Project (, a public resource for documenting Chicago’s food production.

Daniel R. Block, Chicago State University

Daniel R. Block, PhD, is a professor of geography and coordinator of the Fred Blum Neighborhood Assistance Center at Chicago State University.  He has completed a number of food access studies, including the Northeastern Illinois Community Food Security Assessment, a large scale food access study of the six-county Chicago metro area.  Block is currently on the board of the Chicago Food Policy Advisory Council and is a past president of the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society and the founding chair of the Geographies of Food and Agriculture Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers. 


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