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Will Allen, the founder and CEO of Growing Power – headquartered in the 9th District at N. 55th and W. Silver Spring Dr. – received a $500,000 “genius grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in September, the first time the prestigious grant has been awarded to a person in the Milwaukee area.

The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction, and bases its Fellows award decisions on three criteria: exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.

Alderman Puente sponsored a Common Council commendation congratulating and recognizing Mr. Allen on the accomplishment, and he presented it to him during a special ceremony at Growing Power that included Mayor Tom Barrett and others. “Very simply, Will Allen is someone who truly cares about his fellow neighbors, his community and the future,” said Alderman Puente.

“He has made Growing Power a force to inspire communities to build sustainable food systems that are equitable and ecologically sound, creating a just world, one food-secure community at a time and is driven by his own goal of making sure everybody in the world has access to the same healthy, safe, affordable food,” the alderman said.

Mr. Allen is an urban farmer who is transforming the cultivation, production and delivery of healthy foods to underserved, urban populations. He uses a holistic farming model that incorporates both cultivating foodstuffs and designing food distribution networks in an urban setting. The internships and workshops hosted by Growing Power engage teenagers and young adults, often minorities and immigrants, in producing healthy foods for their communities and provide intensive, hands-on training to those interested in establishing similar farming initiatives in other urban settings. Through these and other programs still in development, Allen is experimenting with new and creative ways to improve the diet and health of the underserved and often under-nourished urban low-income population.