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Go Green Community Fresh Market: A Neighborhood Hub of Health, Wellness, and Fresh Food

The Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) and key community partners are building an oasis of health and wellness in the heart of Englewood on Chicago’s South Side.

A major part of IMAN’s plan is the Go Green Community Fresh Market, a renovated, two-story building which aims to be a local source of fresh, affordable, nutritious food, as well as an economic driver and community hub for the area’s more than 6,000 residents.

“Access to affordable, healthy food is a critical driver of community well-being and a core need for Englewood,” said Sana Syed, IMAN’s director of strategic initiatives. The market, set to open at the end of 2021, is the culmination of IMAN’s advocacy, programming and relationship-building on Chicago’s south side.

Promoting holistic health and wellness is merely one of the tools IMAN uses to address injustice and uplift marginalized communities. The market’s development is also rooted in a tenet of IMAN’s mission: providing training and job opportunities to at-risk youth and citizens transitioning from incarceration through its “Green ReEntry” program. The store’s construction includes a team of “Green ReEntry” alumni working on its carpentry, electric and HVAC systems.

It will also help generate a resilient local food system by creating food-related jobs in the neighborhood while boosting access to fresh food supplied by local vendors, farms, and food businesses. The Fresh Market is part of the larger “Go Green on Racine” neighborhood development plan for Englewood, in which IMAN is working in partnership with Teamwork Englewood, the Resident Association of Greater Englewood, and E.G.Woode.

The Market's social enterprise business model ensures that the operation is lean and pays for itself. Syed and her team are negotiating details that will keep prices for fresh produce and other food affordable for the market’s consumers while making it a viable business. One of their plans is to offer a rewards program offering customers discounted prices and coupons for participating.

IMAN’s existing healthy living programs create a symbiotic relationship with the Fresh Market’s customers. For example, participants leaving one of IMAN’s cooking or nutrition workshops can pop into the Fresh Market with a grocery list of items for the healthy recipe they just learned. The recipes and food offerings will be sourced with knowledge of and sensitivity to customers’ racial and ethnic backgrounds.

IMAN’s story began in 1997 when one of its first challenges was bringing together the mostly Black residents of Englewood with the largely Arab owners of the numerous corner stores that populated the neighborhood. Solutions provided by IMAN’s “Corner Store Campaign,” laid the vision and foundation for the Fresh Market.

“The Fresh Market’s cultural significance is that it blends health and wellness with IMAN’s arts and culture programming,” said Syed. "It’s also a space to support and create unity in the neighborhood. That’s important.”