SYCAMORE – A local food and education center may be one step closer to becoming a reality in DeKalb’s Annie Glidden North neighborhood.
Dan Kenney, founder of DeKalb County Community Gardens, is requesting county government to give the organization $900,000 for a Community Food and Education Center project set to be located in the Annie Glidden North neighborhood, according to DeKalb County documents obtained by Daily Chronicle via Illinois Freedom of Information Act request.
“This innovative project will have a positive impact on DeKalb County’s economy and health of the residents,” Kenney wrote in a July 20 email to county officials. “It also will have the potential of providing valuable infrastructure that will benefit specialty crop growers in the region and statewide.”
The organization continues to find more revenue sources for the project, including from county government, the business plan for the community food health and education center, which was submitted to the county by Kenney, states.
“Moving [the community garden]’s 6,000 sq. ft. existing greenhouse operation, presently located in Kirkland, to DeKalb allows a larger retail presence with significant potential revenue growth,” the business plan states.
The project is meant to increase access to fresh local nutritious food, job training, entrepreneurial opportunities, jobs and economic development in that area. It also will include three commercial sized heated greenhouses for year-round food production.
According to the community garden’s business plan, the thought is for construction to begin August 2022 for the center and for center operations to begin January 2024.
Illinois State Rep. Jeff Keicher, R-Sycamore, expressed his support for the project in an April 15 letter, according to FOIA response documents.
“DCFEC is a top priority of the Annie Glidden North Revitalization Plan – a plan that sets forth the strategic direction for revitalization of the AGN neighborhood and address the root causes that have led to the neighborhood’s decline,” Keicher wrote in the letter. “This neighborhood is hope to persistent crime, generational poverty and a lack of resources.”
U.S. Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, DeKalb County State’s Attorney Rick Amato and NIU President Lisa Freeman also showed support for the project in separate April 2021 letters, according to the provided county documents.
DeKalb County Board member Laurie Emmer, who chairs the county’s economic development committee, said earlier this month Kenney’s request initially was on the committee’s Sept. 7 meeting agenda. However, Kenney was not present at that particular meeting meeting and the discussion and vote was tabled to the next committee meeting, which is scheduled for Oct. 5, Emmer said.
“This may go to the finance committee because of the amount of money being asked,” Emmer said.
DeKalb County Board member Tim Bagby, who chairs the county’s finance committee, said Friday the Oct. 6 finance committee meeting agenda has not yet been set.
DeKalb County Administrator Brian Gregory wrote in a Friday email the plan is to “include an agenda item for Mr. Kenney to make his presentation.”
“The County does not have a program or dedicated source of funding for this type of request,” Gregory wrote.
Interest in the center has since renewed amid recent calls for more grocery store options to address food insecurity in the Annie Glidden North neighborhood.
• This story was updated 1:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 24, 2021 to clarify the proposal by the DeKalb County Community Gardens’ for $900,000 from the DeKalb County government to go to a Community Food and Education Center is not affiliated with plans by NIU for a $23 million Northern Illinois Center for Community Sustainability. The Food and Education Center is a development plan headed up by DeKalb County Community Gardens.