Alberto is an engineer, a musician, and — through his work with The Urban Canopy — an active participant in efforts to expand the supply of sustainably produced food grown in Chicago’s city environs, including some of its most underserved South Side neighborhoods.
He is an associate of Alex Poltorak, founder of The Urban Canopy, who also plans to participate in Good Food Business Accelerator programs. Alex earned an undergraduate degree in computer engineering and a master’s degree in business administration. As an Education Pioneer fellowship with Chicago Public Schools in 2010, he experienced first hand the issues surrounding children and nutrition — if a child can’t get enough to eat or lacks healthy food options, concentrating on and succeeding in school become secondary concerns. This prompted him to launch The Urban Canopy, an urban growing project, in 2011.
The plan was to attack this problem directly within communities by utilizing idle rooftops, vacant lots, and empty buildings in urban environments to grow fruits and vegetables. Over the next three years, Alex and his team expanded to include indoor growing, a compost collection service, and farmers market management to their business model while also developing community farms in the Englewood and Bronzeville neighborhoods.
In addition, the Urban Canopy now functions as a local food hub to aggregate products grown by small producers in the urban environment. “We are building a collaborative network of Chicago growers, food producers, eaters and composters that will ultimately help achieve our vision of a sustainable and equitable food system,” Alex says.
His philosophy hits the three major touchstones of the Good Food movement: environmental protection (“Minimize the overall miles that food travels and grow food without using synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.”), health (”Increase access to fresh, nutritious produce and opportunities for community engagement in our food production.”), and economic development (“Create new employment opportunities within the growing urban agriculture movement, as well as keep more of our food dollars local and circulating within our communities.”)