PCC Community Wellness Center is the recipient of this year’s $350,000 Humana Communities Benefit charitable grant, the Oak Park-based agency announced this week.

PCC beat out two others Chicago-area groups to win the 12th annual grant, which is funded by the Humana Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Humana Inc..

The health clinic, which serves Austin and other parts of the West Side and surrounding suburbs, will use the grant to create a community farm in an 8,000-square-foot lot across the street from the PCC Austin Family Health Center, 5425 W. Lake St.

Austin lacks adequate access to affordable and healthy food, and has been federally-designated as a medically underserved area as nearly 53 percent of its 98,500 residents live at or below the federal poverty level. PCC aims to engage at least 150 local participants each year in the community farm.

The community farm responds to these issues by providing Austin residents with fresh, affordable produce and allowing eight families each year to plant food in their own personal plots.

The community farm will also include an education component focusing on nutrition and physical activity. PCC will partner with the Chicago Botanic Garden, which will lend participants of its urban agricultural program, Windy City Harvest, to assist in the farm’s installation and provide monthly training programs for participants.

The grant will also allow PCC to employ Windy City Harvest participants to build the farm, as well as provide three years of seasonal full-time work for one individual that will maintain the farm.

“PCC is dedicated to breaking down the many health care barriers that exist in the medically underserved areas of Chicago,” Robert Urso, president and CEO of PCC Community Wellness Center, said in a written statement. “This community farm will help us not just improve the health of our patients but transform a whole neighborhood by providing essential resources. “

Nonprofit organizations in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kankakee, Lake and McHenry counties were eligible to apply for this year’s grant. PCC will receive a total of $350,000 in three installments over a three-year period.

“Sustainability is an important facet of improving the health of local communities, and that is precisely what made PCC’s plan to build a community farm the model project to award the $350,000 Humana Communities Benefit grant,” Kristine Seymour, regional vice president of market development in Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin, said in a written statement.

“We are confident this project will help PCC fulfill its commitment to renewing the health of a community affected by poverty, unemployment and lack of adequate resources.”

PCC and two other organizations – Family Alliance in Woodstock and Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance of Chicago – participated in the inaugural online community vote. The public’s results were included during the final round of judging, which included formal presentations to a panel of community leaders and business representatives that decided the winning nonprofit in each city.


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