The recent launch of ChiFresh Kitchen, a new worker-owned food service contracting cooperative on the West Side of Chicago, marks the culmination of a year and a half of organizing, business planning, legislative advocacy and fundraising led by Camille Kerr, principal of Upside Down Consulting and a member of NCBA CLUSA’s Council of Cooperative Economists.
All five founding worker-owners are formerly incarcerated Black women who face disproportionate levels of formal and informal discrimination in the job market—twice the rate faced by formerly incarcerated white women, according to a Prison Policy Initiative report. As business owners, they now have a chance to rewrite not only their own futures, but also create a space of opportunity and empowerment for other women.
ChiFresh Kitchen delivered its first meals as a business last month to Hope House in the nearby North Lawndale neighborhood, as part of COVID-19 relief efforts. Through a partnership with Urban Growers Collective—a collective of Black-owned urban farms in the Chicagoland area—ChiFresh is cooking and distributing 1,000 emergency meals per week to people experiencing food insecurity in Chicago’s South and West sides. They are currently fundraising to better meet emergency food needs caused by the pandemic, as well as purchase their own kitchen space.