With the help of valued industry partners including Syngenta and Monsanto, the Illinois Corn Marketing Board participated in the inaugural year of the City Produce Project in 2010. Now we’re back with nearly two dozen more Illinois farmers that will be growing sweet corn on their farms to donate to underprivileged families around the state.
The City Produce Project worked to positively impact the growing problem of poor eating habits, food insecurity, obesity, and diabetes by providing fresh, locally grown vegetables and nutrition education to low income communities. As an extension, Illinois corn farmers also used sweet corn seed generously provided through partner seed companies to support their local food pantries, soup kitchens, or other food outreach organizations.
In its 2010 pilot year, approximately 75,000 pounds of produce, including several tons of sweet corn, were distributed to inner city sites in urban food deserts where recipients accessed the produce through local pantries and enrolled in nutrition education programs to learn how to effectively use the fresh vegetables in their diets. It was a very successful beginning.
Specifically regarding the sweet corn component, 22 corn farmers received and planted the sweet corn seed donated by the partnering seed companies. A few of the crops were devastated by the early season rains, but the majority yielded a very successful harvest. The participating farmers reported great personal satisfaction in their experience, relaying stories about gaining a new understanding of the food needs in their communities. The sweet corn harvest also allowed for several facets of the local area to work together, introducing agriculture and corn to their conversations.
Recipients of the Chicago-area fresh produce overwhelming reported that the sweet corn component was the most valuable contribution to their family.