Youth Outreach Services Urban Garden

learning opportunities & nutrition in an urban food desert

Youth Outreach Service (YOS) is a social services agency on the west side of Chicago that works with at-risk youth to help them reach their full potential. The children they serve are faced with challenges such as homelessness, violence, mental health, substance abuse, juvenile justice and family conflict, among other things. 

Their location in the Chicago suburb of Austin was built on a lot that sat vacant for years - and had become a dumping ground for garbage and a welcome home for the local rats. YOS wanted to clean up their location's image as well as find a way to build bridges with the local community. 


The new YOS location's community was a "food desert" - an urban area in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food. We worked with YOS to provide a vision for what the lot could become - a community garden managed by their children, but for the benefit of the Austin neighborhood, too. The City of Chicago issued YOS a $3,000 grant that covered the cost of clearing the trash-strewn vacant lot and the purchase of new, suitable soil. 

FMFM funded the seeding of the urban garden - donating $3,000 to get it started and more thereafter for maintenance and upkeep. Additionally, a group of FMFM volunteers helped to plant and work the gardens to get things started.

  • Donated Supplies: Materials for raised beds, fertilizer, seed, gardening tools
  • Total Raised: $4,455 toward raised bed and garden restoration projects

the result

This garden, maintained by the children that YOS serves, now enables the neighborhood's access to produce and other nutritious food. The youth take charge of the garden's maintenance and eventually would like to add a spot for a beehive and small livestock, and host a farmer's market where they can sell what they grow. The learning opportunities for these at-risk youth are endless. 


The garden is supporting 90 children; but the impact it will have on the community is what’s driving me.
— Michael Espenchied, FMFM auxiliary board president