Home » Our Impact » Impact Areas » Neighborhood & Physical Environment

Increase investment of capital and resources in community infrastructure that builds healthier neighborhoods.

The built environment and perceptions of resources play a large role in the health of a neighborhood, ranging from affordable housing to safety to access to healthy foods. West Side neighborhoods face varying disparities across these dimensions. Several West Side neighborhoods experience high vacancy rates, housing costs, and nearly all of the 560,000 residents on Chicago’s West Side face at least one barrier to food security, including reduced quality, variety, or sufficiency of available food. WSU strives to address these disparities by coordinating on new strategies to improve healthy food access and impact investing.

WSU has coordinated over $6.5 million in impact investments as well as dedicated resources to healthy food access, including co-funding a SNAP and Medicaid Benefits Enrollment Coordinator with the Greater Chicago Food Depository and piloting a Fruits and Vegetables Voucher Program at the Farm on Ogden.
$ 0 M
of our initial pool in impact investment allocation went to these great organizations:
Child welfare agency providing services to children, youth and families on the west and northwest sides of Chicago and the near west suburbs
Community organization with the mission of creating a thriving Austin community by improving education and economic development outcomes
Organization offering programs for infants and toddlers, early childhood, Head Start, literacy, and adult learning
Affordable housing initiative to rehab 10 single-family housing units and 20 rental units

Community-based organization raising money to fund a new headquarters

Community stabilization effort to acquire foreclosed properties through NCST

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pantries have partnered with WSU anchor institutions to support emergency food access

WSU tracks the progress of our initiatives; we also track changes in community-level data to monitor progress towards our overarching goals and inform our actions and projects on the ground. We selected 3 Neighborhood & Physical Environment metrics from our comprehensive measurement framework to highlight key areas of focus. For more information about our comprehensive framework, please click here.

Our 2019 West Side United commitments include the following:

  • Launching a Healthy Food Voucher program to provide fruits & vegetables to 1,000 West Side residents by 2021.
  • Supporting 3 CPS schools in complying with CPS Nutrition Education standards and policies.
  • Strengthening direct support relationships with food pantries to provide wrap around services such as SNAP enrollment.
In our metrics dashboard, we are tracking:

There are many barriers to obtaining and consuming healthy foods, including distance to markets and food deserts, transportation, availability of healthy products, and cost. This measure shows the percent of adults age 18 and older who reported that it’s very easy to get fresh fruits and vegetables.

West Side neighborhoods experience a disproportionate rate of violent crime, impacting feelings of safety and community wellbeing. This measure shows the rate of violent crime incidents per 100,000 residents.

Families that pay a large proportion of their income towards housing may have challenges affording other necessities like food, clothing, and health care. This measure shows the percent of households that spend 35% or more of their income on housing costs.

Jennifer Norsworthy, WSU Healthy Food Program Manager
Jennifer Norsworthy
Program Manager, Neighborhood & Physical Environment

To learn more about supporting neighborhoods & physical environments in our 10 communities, please email Jennifer at: jnorsworthy@westsideunited.org