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FEEL GOOD NEWS: Former NFLer Helps Chicago Teens Turn A Liquor Store Into A Pop-Up Food Market

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Here’s some good news for a change. Former NFL star Sam Acho is helping a group of teens in Chicago make a difference in their neighborhood. More inside….

With everything going on in the world, a good news story is much needed.

Former NFL player Sam Acho has teamed up with non-profit By The Hand Club for Kids, which is an organization that helps children who live in under-resourced neighborhoods have abundant life. The teens wanted to the show the world that positive change is happening in their neighborhood, so they took a major step in opening a youth-led fresh market to provide healthy food, summer jobs and entrepreneurship training to youth.



The teens have transformed a West Side liquor store into a pop-up food market in their Austin neighborhood, a place where fresh food is hard to come back. According to research provided by BTH, their fresh food market sits in an area within a half-mile radius where there are 17 liquor stores but only two markets where people can buy fresh food, technically making the area a food desert.

In the aftermath of the George Floyd killing, By The Hand Club for Kids held “listening circles” where the youth could voice their feelings around what was going on and discuss solutions to the lacks of resources in their neighborhoods. The teens were frustrated there weren’t area grocery stores in the area due to them being closed down due to the looting.

“What I heard coming out of that was that students wanted to take all those raw and powerful emotions and turn them into something good and do something from a social justice standpoint,” said Donnita Travis, executive director of the group.



Along with Sam Acho, several other prominent figures in the community joined in on the effort, including Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Superintendent David Brown, Chicago Police Alderman Emma Mitts, representatives from By The Hand (BTH) and a number of players/executives from Chicago teams joined together to begin demolition on a liquor store in Austin purchased with $500,000 in donations from players.


Given all that has happened in the last few months, the youth at By The Hand in Austin wanted to show the world that...

Posted by By The Hand Club For Kids on Tuesday, July 7, 2020


“We refer to that area as a food desert,” said the Dallas-born Sam Acho, who has played 110 NFL games, 51 of them with Chicago, 51 more with Arizona, as well as eight in Tampa Bay. “When we asked some of the kids in the area, ‘What is this like for you? Where do you get your food from?’ a lot of them said they get their food from the gas station. Others said that if they want to get healthy food, they have to drive 45 minutes to get it. Others said they get their food from fast-food places. So, we saw there was a need for something. I sat and listened to those kids and then I decided to invite some friends to help out.”



“I called up guys from the Bears, the Bulls, the Cubs, the White Sox, the Blackhawks… and everybody showed up," Sam continued. "For me, it was amazing. Jonathan and Malcolm, they both showed up. And not only did they show up that week, they showed up the following week as well. And then they came again for our teardown party. It was a true team effort. These people gave their time, their money and their voice to let people know what’s going on.”

“My hope for this project is simple. I want to see that store up and running, people coming in and out, getting healthy food, and the kids, who I’ve been seeing for the last couple years, working in that store. But more importantly, I see a complete community change. I see pre-schools. I see grocery stores. I see people walking around the community. I see redevelopment. I see police officers joining with their community members in helping to change the community for the better. I see joy and I see love. When I close my eyes, that’s what I see.”

Jobs for teens and fresh food for the community. Gotta love it!

Photo: By The Hand's FB


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