Writer Maudlyne Ihejirika profiles Growing Power Director Erika Allen.
Writer Maudlyne Ihejirika profiles Growing Power Director Erika Allen.
March 20

Sun-Times: Alumna Uses Urban Gardening to Plant Seeds of Hope

On March 15 the Chicago Sun-Times featured alumna Erika Allen, Chicago and National Projects Director for acclaimed nonprofit Growing Power INC. After graduating SAIC, Allen worked as a teaching artist focused on community-based transformations through art. She later earned a master's in art therapy from University of Illinois at Chicago and ran a food pantry for a social service agency on Chicago’s West Side. “I realized the people I was serving were so food insecure,” she says. “I was like, ‘Chicago needs a community-based food system.’” A year later, Allen launched Growing Power, which now maintains 13 acres of farmland across the city of Chicago. “Food is something that’s so nonthreatening, because everyone eats, right? It’s not polarizing. Who’s going to argue against making sure everyone has safe, equal access to food?” she says. “It became a mission. To be able to take an empty lot, particularly in our communities labeled blighted or ghetto, and turn it into something beautiful and nourishing, I love it.”