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On the evening of July 19, the parking lot of the Family Focus building, 2010 Dewey Ave., will be transformed into a farm to table community dining experience. Approximately 100 guests will gather under fairy lights at communal tables overlooking the Foster Street Garden that sits on a narrow plot at the north end of the parking lot.
The garden, no more than a vacant lot of overgrown grasses and weeds just three years ago, is now a thriving urban teaching garden thanks to the collaboration between Family Focus and the Evanston Food Exchange. The Foster Street Urban Agriculture Program was developed with the aim to supply fresh food to the community while providing hands-on learning for children and teens about planting, harvesting, composting, cooking and entrepreneurship.
Throughout the summer, children from the Family Focus Summer Camp can be found in the garden digging, weeding and harvesting their crops. Led by Chef Q. Ibraheem, the children between the ages of 8 and 14 are learning how to cultivate a garden.
“It’s all about the children,” Chef Q. says. “Some of these kids who come into the program have never even tasted a blueberry. By the middle of the summer, they are growing and tasting a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.”
Every Wednesday from 4-6 p.m. is Community Garden Day. All members of the community are welcome to enjoy the garden. Residents can help out in the garden or just read a book on a bench. It is also the time when the week’s harvest is available to the public.
“We want people to know that we have food here and it is free.” she says.
Despite the cool and wet start to summer, the garden is already bursting with produce.
Kyle King an incoming fifth-grader at Bessie Rhodes and a participant in the Family Focus Summer Camp, gives a tour of the garden, pointing out purple kale, mustard greens, rainbow chard, tomatoes, chives, basil.
“All of these vegetables and herbs will be used in the Farm to Fork Dinner,” he says.
Kyle, along with about 10 other campers, will be assisting Chef Q. at the annual dinner. The younger students will lead guests through garden tours, while the older children will work as servers.
While the farm fresh dinner is carefully curated by Chef Q., she will be meeting with the students to discuss the menu and to talk about sauces and garnishes and which herbs to use.
“The dinner is a celebration of their efforts,” she says. “They grow the food, they harvest the food, they set the table. They are able to take ownership and they feel very proud.”
The Farm to Fork Dinner is the program’s biggest fundraiser of the year. Tickets are on sale at Eventbrite; 100% of the proceeds will go to the Foster Street Urban Agriculture Program.