Home News UMMA opening Harvest Market pantry in new Waukegan location

UMMA opening Harvest Market pantry in new Waukegan location

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A new grocery shopping experience is in store for Waukegan and North Chicago area residents who are food pantry patrons where rather than receive a prepackaged container of groceries or ask someone to get items for them, they will select their own goods.

When the Urban Muslim Minority Alliance (UMMA) moves its current pantry on Grand Avenue in Waukegan to the ground floor of a recently purchased building, Tameeca Russell, the organization’s director of operations and programs, said it will triple in size.

“We’re calling it the Harvest Market,” Russell said. “They’ll be walking up and down the aisles with shopping carts to shop. We’ll partner with local markets which will help our store with fresh produce and meat. This will be a change for our consumers.”

There are hopes this mural will be restored to its original condition. (Steve Sadin/Lake County News-Sun)
There are hopes this mural will be restored to its original condition. (Steve Sadin/Lake County News-Sun)

UMMA purchased a nearly 20,000-square-foot building Friday on the northwest corner of 10th Street and McAlister Avenue in Waukegan which will house the Harvest Market on the ground floor and four large affordable housing units on the second.

Hamaas Ibrahim. UMMA’s board president, said in an email the success of the organization’s Uplife program providing affordable housing helped spawn the Harvest Market offering a “wider option of healthy food options.”

“Unlike a pantry where you receive a pre-selected box, the Harvest Market allows families to choose fresh produce, fruits, vegetables, and meat, fostering a sense of agency and dignity,” Ibrahim said in the email.

Russell said the market will go beyond offering food products providing personal care items people would find along the aisles of a traditional supermarket. Approximately 8,900 square feet, it will be the size of a neighborhood grocery store.

“We’re expanding our choices for the consumer,” Russell said. “We’re going to have baby food and supplies for children. There will be cereal and frozen food from two commercial freezers. We’ll have bread, cookies, rice, pasta, and dairy products.”

A major difference between other grocery stores in the 10th Street Corridor and throughout Waukegan and North Chicago is the checkout line. There will be no cash registers there.

Patrons will not have to dig into their wallets or purses before leaving with their groceries. Russell said there is no income or net worth requirement. A person can be in need for a variety of reasons.

“If you need groceries, you can shop,” Russell said. “We ask for income and address. We do that for grant writing purposes (as a not-for-profit organization). There is no charge for the food. We’re going to be triple the size of what we were before.”

State Sen. Adriane Johnson, D-Buffalo Grove, attended a preview of the building in January with other elected officials, UMMA personnel, and some community members. She said the grocery store environment is good for the community.

State Sen. Adriane Johnson (far let), D-Buffalo Grove, North Chicago Mayor Leon Rockingham, Jr. (third from left) and Lake County Board member Mary Ross Cunningham (7th from left) talk to people inside the future home of the Harvest Market in Waukegan. (Steve Sadin/Lake County News-Sun)
State Sen. Adriane Johnson (far let), D-Buffalo Grove, North Chicago Mayor Leon Rockingham, Jr. (third from left) and Lake County Board member Mary Ross Cunningham (7th from left) talk to people inside the future home of the Harvest Market in Waukegan. (Steve Sadin/Lake County News-Sun)

Johnson said patrons will no longer have to make decisions based purely on economics. They can select food and sundries based on what is best for the family rather than what their pocketbook dictates.

“This has all the dignity of a community food market,” Johnson said. “The Healthy Market concept will lift the neighbors and the neighborhood. They can make health-conscious food choices instead of processed foods.”

Funding for the market and apartments comes from UMMA resources and $250,000 from a grant from Lake County through the effort of Lake County Board Vice-Chair Mari Ross Cunningham, D-Waukegan, who represents the area.

Along with more choices for food and affordable apartments, Cunningham said it will be emotionally uplifting as well as offering economic benefits. She is glad the county was able to help with the funding.

“It makes people feel real, real good,” Cunningham said. “They can just walk in and go shop. It makes them feel self-reliant. The building is between two churches.”

Affordable housing in the area will get a boost with four large apartments. Russell said they are suitable for large families with two containing four bedrooms, one with three and the other with two.

“We offer affordable housing for larger families where the requirements are not as stringent as they are with subsidized affordable housing,” Russell said. “They have easy access to transportation on a busy street.”

With larger apartments rather than putting families in smaller dwellings with one or two bedrooms, Johnson said UMMA’s concept is ideal for a variety of family structures.

“This creates space for multigenerational family units,” Johnson said. “Families come in all sizes. Grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, and uncles add support for families in their daily lives.”

Between the market, the affordable housing units, and a North Chicago Police Department substation that opened last fall a few blocks away, North Chicago Mayor Leon Rockingham, Jr, said the entire neighborhood is on the upswing.

“This will benefit the entire 10th Street Corridor,” Rockingham said. “People can start feeling safer. The Harvest Market is going to help us realize a dream for the area.”



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