Self-Help Shares

Working With Communities to Build Sustainable Food Systems from Farm to Fork

By staff
  | Jul 29, 2022

CSU garden photo

At Self-Help, we appreciate that the food we all eat is the product of a whole system, not just the restaurant or supermarket where we buy it. We also believe that everyone should have access to fresh, high-quality food. Expanding sustainable and healthy food systems from farm to table throughout our footprint has been integral to our work for decades. We’re also aiming to address food “deserts” and reduce the impact that disinvestment has had on the availability of fresh food in the communities we serve. 

Through our food systems lending program, we provide financing to businesses and nonprofits that are working to make our food systems more equitable and sustainable. Our borrowers include food distributors, farm businesses, food waste and recycling companies, grocery stores and co-ops.

When the COVID-19 pandemic threatened the livelihoods of food entrepreneurs and food service workers, we worked with independent restaurants and other food related businesses to help them secure PPP loans. Our PIVOT loan program then helped these businesses thrive through the transition out of pandemic restrictions. 

We build on our food systems work through policy and advocacy efforts. For example, we’ve long been a strong supporter of food co-ops in North Carolina, and we helped lead the fundraising campaign for the Durham Farmer’s Market, working with community leaders and Congressman David Price to secure critical federal funding to help build it. We have deep relationships in many farmworker communities through credit union mergers in California, Florida and Washington state.  

star farm

The last way we help make change? Partnerships — like our partnership with urban farmers Star Farm in Chicago.

Self-Help FCU staff member Kimberly Jones was born within walking distance of our Chicago Chatham branch, where she now serves as Director of Community Engagement-Midwest. Her family banked at Seaway, now a division of Self-Help, and she remembers the seasonal farmers’ market as a focal point for Seaway customers. 

“It was a community staple for several years,” she recalls. Although the Seaway farmer’s market has since stopped, Kimberly is excited that Self-Help is partnering with Star Farm to bring mobile farmers’ markets to our Chatham and Little Village  branches. Looking back on the legacy of Seaway bank and its farmers’ market, this new partnership honors that tradition and will expand access to fresh, high-quality food for our members and for the community. 

Kimberly notes how meaningful expanding access to sustainable and healthy food  is for her. "As I'm getting older, I recognize the need and importance of living well for my own benefit; and I want to help make that a reality for others in my community."

We invite all to join us in supporting sustainable and healthy food access in the Chicago area. The Star Farm mobile farmer’s market will offer fresh, locally grown produce, and other food items. Visit the mobile market from 11 am to 12 pm on alternating Tuesdays, beginning August 2 at the Chatham branch and August 9 at Little Village through September 6. Illinois LINK cards, WIC, and Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) coupons are welcome.

Learn more about our food systems work, and subscribe to our weekly food systems newsletter (select “Weekly News Update: CDFIs and Sustainable Food Systems”) to get regular updates on what we’re doing to improve the health and well-being of the communities we serve. 

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