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Build Coffee Hero

Build Coffee

Featuring Hannah Nyhart, Brigid Maniates, and Maira Khwaja | Chicago, IL

 

Build Coffee is a community space that brings together people from both majority-Black and majority-White neighborhoods. During the coronavirus pandemic, the owners found a way to provide practical support to their community while connecting people in a different way: by funding farmers to feed neighbors.

Could you describe your project?

Born as an emergency pandemic response, Market Box was a way to take care of our most immediate community, which included both neighbors in need of food and small farmers who were suddenly cut off from sales outlets. We crowd-fund and bulk-buy local produce from small farms and distribute it for free to low-income households experiencing geographic, mobility, or pandemic-based vulnerability. We’ve now delivered over 8,000 bags of food. Recognizing that food injustice on the South Side doesn’t start or end with the pandemic, we’re working to build this project into a year-round, sustainable food ecosystem that links local food to communities of color.

If you had to guess, what will be the biggest challenge with reaching your goal?

As with a lot of mutual aid projects, our big challenge is sustainability! We’re asking people to show up every month, to make driving deliveries or pack bags or give money as an ongoing promise.

“Essentially what we’re doing is bulk-buying food, packing it with friends, and driving it out to our neighbors: It’s a really straightforward way to take care of each other.”

What is the most important part of your project that you want the world to know about?

A great thing about Market Box is that it’s the kind of project that could be built anywhere. We are committed to helping anybody that wants to make a version of this where they are. Essentially what we’re doing is bulk-buying food, packing it with friends, and driving it out to our neighbors: It’s a really straightforward way to take care of each other.

What inspired you to get involved in this issue?

When the pandemic kept everybody home, it felt really important to still be visible to each other and to find ways to engage in acts of care. We were lucky to have like-minded neighbors in our building to create this project with, and our regulars became donors and drivers and recipients: It was a way to make sure we were in this together even though we couldn’t “be” together.

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