Chicago Prize

Creating a Solidarity Economy: Centro de Solidaridad Mi Villita

Delta Institute

Our collaborative of environmental justice and community organizations will increase economic empowerment and food access in Little Village through a community hub and food-cart cooperative.

Project Factsheet
Two-page overview of proposal
Competition Participation
Chicago Prize
Community development
Current Work Location(s):
  • Chicago, Illinois, United States
  • Chicago, Illinois, United States
Priority Population(s):
  • Economically disadvantaged people
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):
  • 8. Decent work and economic growth
  • 10. Reduced inequalities
  • 11. Sustainable cities and communities

Executive Summary

Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) and Delta Institute will create a new community hub at 2358 S. Whipple to provide Little Village (LV) and SW Chicago--composed primarily of working Latino American families--with food equity and economic development opportunities. LV is between the Stevenson Expressway, Cermak, Western, and Cicero. Collaborators include the Street Vendors Association, Little Village Gardeners Coalition, Chicago Food Policy Action Council, and Just Design. 2358 S. Whipple is a former CFD engine house that will become a community hub/commercial kitchen--along with a satellite retail storefront--to: 1.) Offer 150 food-cart entrepreneurs with professional-grade equipment to prepare food for sale--keeping dollars local and increasing household incomes and economic self-sufficiency by 2023; 2.) Establish a worker-led cooperative to manage the kitchen and a cooperative satellite retail storefront by 2023; 3.) Serve as the heart of a sustainable food network by 2023, with entrepreneurs purchasing organic produce from the LVEJO Urban Farm and sending produce waste to the planned LVEJO commercial composting site; 4.) Establish an open-access venue for consistent programming for both LVEJO and local advocates by 2023; and, 5.) Create a ripple effect from an estimated $8M in food cart revenues to increase economic sustainability and uplift community members by 2030. Evaluative indicators: number of entrepreneurs, membership in worker-led cooperative, community members, and programming events; % of space utilization; community members reporting increased food access; self-reported household income increases by entrepreneurs; and a more robust local food economy. Measurement tools include self-reported on-site tracking, surveys, membership agreements, and others.

Organization Details
Lead Organization

Delta Institute

Organization Headquarters
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Organization ID
Annual Operating Budget
$1.0 to 5 Million
Number of Full-time Employees
10 to 25

Charity, fund, non-governmental organization, religious institution, school, or other entity

COVID-19 Response

Little Village is experiencing high levels of COVID-19 exposure. Regarding future plans, the team has scaled down our build-out plans to ensure that programming is fully supported for the next 5-10 years. This approach is based on the 2008 Great Recession and its documented economic impact on Little Village; we fully anticipate a multi-year recovery from the large-scale economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Particularly, we anticipate that less leveraged funding will be available in the next 3-5-year period—thus we scaled down tactical components of our initial submission (such as omitting a second property purchase to serve as a 26th Street storefront for food sales).

Racial and Ethnic Injustice Response

As a legacy environmental justice community, Little Village was already in a precarious situation before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, with many of the food cart vendors earning less than $50 per day (with then-routine customer levels) prior to shelter-in-place orders and decreased food traffic. Little Village residents are faced with lower incomes and high unemployment, highlighting an opportunity for growth that could potentially address these persistent economic divides, which directly informs our economic and workforce development programming driven by a goal of more sustainable/livable wages for residents.

Little Village inherited much of the City’s legacy industrial pollution, located adjacent to the third largest industrial corridor in Chicago. The neighborhood is a prime example of how traditional urban planning and economic development practices have been harmful to communities of color, who far too often bear disproportionate pollution burden and lower local economic investment while being excluded from planning. Our efforts directly confront and address these legacy EJ concerns.