Chicago has it’s first-ever food equity policy lead.
Ruby Ferguson, who is taking on that role, will help address food insecurity across the city, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Ferguson previously worked with the Near North Health Service Corporation, expanding supplemental nutrition programs for women and children, and clinical dietetic and cooking programs.
Food security is the ability to have agency or choice in consuming healthy and affordable foods, Ferguson said. According to the Chicago Food Equity Agenda, in late 2020, 19% of people in the Chicago metro region faced food insecurity. That figure rose to 29% in Latino communities and 37% in Black communities.
In her position, Ferguson said she hopes to address the disinvestment driving those rates of food insecurity.
The city has identified five priorities to advance in 2021 as part of the city’s Food Equity Agenda: eliminate barriers to food pantry expansion; market and maximize nutrition programs and benefits; leverage city and institutional procurement to support local BIPOC growers, producers and food business; eliminate barriers to urban farming; and supporting BIPOC food business and entrepreneurs.
“To me what food equity looks like is not us as a food equity council prescribing a solution for communities, but I see it as responding to the needs of communities and giving opportunities that are sustainable over time,” Ferguson said.