New garden resource center opening in West Chicago for families in need

A new suburban agriculture resource center aimed at families in need of food assistance is slated to open next spring in West Chicago.

The center is being spearheaded by The GardenWorks Project, a nonprofit that has built more than 130 home vegetable gardens in the DuPage area for people in need since its founding in 2012.

"We've always wanted a space to call our own," said Tina Koral, executive director of the nonprofit. "It feels great to have a physical location to gather in, to be surrounded by all things gardening, and a place to welcome folks into the (gardening) community that we're trying to establish in DuPage."

The resource center will be in People Made Visible's cultural center at 103 W. Washington St. in downtown West Chicago. It is scheduled to open in March and be a hub for people seeking food gardening education and supplies. Vegetable seeds, raised-bed gardening kits and a tool and garden book lending library will be inside.

In addition, People Made Visible has agreed to share the community garden space it rents from St. Michael's United Church of Christ at 401 W. Washington St.

"We are enhancing the garden space tenfold," Cooper said. "We're looking at a whole new design, and the garden resource center will be just four blocks east."

Educational classes on various gardening topics, such as composting, canning and how to grow particular vegetables, will be held at the center and in the garden. People Made Visible is also working to find public art that can be put on display in the garden.

Koral said she hopes the resource center and community garden will help with her organization's mission to reduce food insecurity for the estimated 74,000 people facing it in DuPage County.

"When somebody is food-insecure, it means they just don't have access to food that can keep them healthy," she said. "That access can be limited by transportation, by not having the funds to purchase them or by not having availability in the community."

GardenWorks already has built 24 raised-bed gardens for West Chicago families. Healthy West Chicago Director Andi Cooper said her organization - which focuses on increasing healthy eating and physical activity among residents - has set a goal to increase that number to 100.

"We want anyone who's interested in gardening and growing their own food to have access to that," Cooper said. "We want to be able to coach them, support them.

"It's more than just building a garden and planting it. There is an education process. Having a homebase for these three entities is going to make helping the community move forward and build gardens that much easier."

Volunteers and donations of new or gently used gardening tools and supplies that can be lent to families are still needed. To donate, or for information, email

The GardenWorks Project, Healthy West Chicago and People Made Visible have partnered to open a new garden resource center and expand a community garden next year in West Chicago to serve thousands of people facing food insecurity. Courtesy of Sarah Bass
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