Natural Home Earth Mover: Gary Cuneen

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Gary Cuneen’s group delivers farm-fresh organic food to the city.

When Gary Cuneen imagined his 4-year-old son asking years from now what he had done to address the world’s environmental challenges, he decided to start Seven Generations Ahead, an advocacy and education group that builds sustainable communities. “I decided I needed to address global issues at the local level,” he says.

Cuneen founded Seven Generations Ahead in 2001, based on the Native American principle that each generation is responsible for ensuring future generations’ well-being. The nonprofit promotes healthy, eco-friendly communities in Oak Park and the greater Chicago area through educational programs for school children and campaigns that connect organic farmers with local businesses. It also works with businesses and local government to promote sustainable practices such as green building development and resource conservation.

Seven Generations Ahead’s “Fresh From the Farm” program teaches kids from 13 schools about healthy eating and where their food comes from. It organizes field trips to local farms and weekly school delivery of fresh fruits and vegetables that parents can buy. Seven Generations Ahead also started a pilot lunch program in Oak Park schools that gives kids more servings of fresh fruits and vegetables daily.

To bring more fresh food to the community, Seven Generations Ahead’s “Buy Local” campaign connects area farmers with Chicago restaurants, cafés, businesses and congregations. Cuneen is also active in helping set up Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) hubs in which hundreds of families receive fresh, organic fruits and vegetables. Families pay participating farmers to receive a weekly box of food over a 20-week period. “It gives farmers a guaranteed income up front and makes it easier for them to grow food using sustainable practices,” Cuneen says.

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