Dedicated to making food access more sustainable, Mimi Hamada ’25 has been an instrumental force in the online presence of Just Roots Chicago.
Initially uncertain about how she wanted to spend her summer, Hamada sought broad alternative opportunities to make “an impact on people.” While Hamada is a prospective Biochemistry and Latinx and Latin American Studies double-major, she knew she did not want to spend her whole summer in a lab. Her internship search ultimately introduced her to urban farming, particularly those that donate most of their food to local food pantries and non-profit organizations.
Hamada learned about the internship when her father forwarded her an online article highlighting the initiative. After researching the organization and looking at its website, Hamada’s interest in the organization grew. “One thing I like about this organization is that it’s not set up as much as we are just giving to the community. There’s a weird power imbalance a lot of times with some of these organizations where the communities feel dependent on them in a weird way. What I like about this organization, what I’m learning through working with them, is how collaboration can look and how community empowerment and collaboration can work together,” Hamada said.
Her deepened interest prompted her to email the organization to connect with the directors. Unfortunately, the directors informed Hamada that all the paid positions affiliated with the organization were filled. In response, Hamada sought summer internship funding from the Loeb Center’s Houston Program. After applying for the grant on April 20, she secured a financial stipend from the Houston Program, traveled back home to Chicago, and started working for Just Roots Chicago as the Communications and Farm Program intern on June 1.
According to Hamada, “Just Roots is an organization that aims to provide food access for people who live in neighborhoods affected by food apartheid and food deserts. Their goal is to create a space where people can access fresh produce that they help choose what is grown, which is important. Also, it’s a space for people to interact with food. Because especially in a city like Chicago, you go to the grocery store and buy your food, you’re not involved in any of the processes of how it’s made or what it looks like throughout each of the stages.”
Hamada’s role as an intern allowed her to contribute to the mission in various ways. She would go to the small farm two days a week and work on “planting, harvesting, packaging, and preparing all the food.” The other three days of the week, Hamada works on developmental tasks such as grant writing and advertising the organization on social media.
While Hamada’s internship ended with Just Root Chicago in August, she recalls an important sentiment at her time in the organization. “The mission of Just Roots is to provide food access while also creating a community space and educating people on what food can be for you, not just in terms of feeding yourself, but feeding your mind and your soul,” Hamada said.
To learn more about funding your unpaid or low-paying summer internship here.