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Austin, Garfield Park, North Lawndale

Much Of The West Side Is A Food Desert — So Artists Are Throwing A ‘Feast’

FEAST Festival is a two-day art and food celebration that will give away free produce and prepared meals and spark conversations about food access.

A DJ performing at the 2019 FEAST festival.
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NORTH LAWNDALE — A food and arts festival coming to the West Side is raising awareness about many Chicagoans’ lack of access to healthy, affordable food.

FEAST Festival is an annual food giveaway and creative market organized by AMFM, a Chicago art, music and fashion platform, in partnership with the Park District. Guests can get pre-packaged meals, as well as fresh fruits and veggies provided by Imperfect Produce.

The festival is 1-4 p.m. Sept 11-12 at Homan Square Park, 3559 W. Arthington St.

Organizers want people to think critically about their food and discuss who has food, who doesn’t and how people can help each other meet their basic needs, AMFM founder Ciera McKissick said.

“I know that this festival is only a small solution and only one time a year,” McKissick said. “There are people in need the other 364 days of the year, as well. The idea is to spark a conversation and bring others on this journey.”

The festival will feature an outdoor exhibit called Food for Thought that explores the intersection between race and food scarcity. Artist Kiara Jade will use photography and collage to examine how the city’s food deserts are tied to Chicago’s history of redlining and segregation.

“We talk about food deserts and how it affects people. But this exhibition really gets into the nitty-gritty on where this stems from,” McKissick said.

The Food for Thought exhibit is also showing at the Lawndale Pop-Up Spot through Sunday.

The festival will have musical performances from local artists, including Boukhepra, DJ Ca$h Era, Azieb, Orisun and AMFM resident DJ Bonita Appleblunt.

Food insecurity in Black and Latino communities has spiked because of the economic effects of the pandemic and looting that forced some grocery stores to close last summer.

“A lot of those stores shuttered and closed their doors, which cut off access in an already suffering area that was in dire need of these types of resources for groceries,” McKissick said.

This year’s FEAST festival recognizes the tremendous work from residents and organizations to organize mutual aid projects that got food to people who needed it most, McKissick said.

AMFM will give out lists of mutual aid projects, grocery stores and food resources in the area to connect people with food options.

Inspired by the mutual aid efforts that gained traction last year, McKissick began thinking how she as an individual could help people who lacked food. Each time she ordered takeout, she saved the tupperware containers to use later, she said.

“I would cook food at home, fill those containers and go out into the neighborhood and give those meals out to people as a regular practice,” she said.

“Seeing so many people in need last year made me want to do more, and I have been trying to incorporate the practice of our FEAST festival more into my daily life. We do hold some responsibility for one another, and I saw that reflected a lot last year and it was beautiful to see people offer such care.”

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