Friday, February 26, 2016

Follow Food Depository advocates on the ground in Washington, D.C.



From February 28 - March 1, more than 30 advocates from the Greater Chicago Food Depository and partner agencies will be attending the National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. After two days of conference sessions, the advocates will meet with federal lawmakers at Capitol Hill on Tuesday, March 1.

There are a number of ways to follow the advocates on their trip:
  • Social media: Be sure to follow the Food Depository on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for short video updates, photos and insights from the conference.
  • Live blog: Watch the live blog for updates from the various conference keynotes, including remarks by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Virginia First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe, Kathryn Edin, co-author of "$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America" and White House Adviser Cecilia Munoz.
  • Meeting the Advocates Videos: Before the trip, we highlighted three advocates, asking what motivates them to lift their voices in Washington. Watch the videos and learn more.
To find out about the Food Depository's advocacy efforts and to get involved, visit chicagosfoodbank.org/advocacy.




Wednesday, February 10, 2016

1 City, 1 Food Drive collects more than 1.3 million meals

In November, Food Depository volunteers collected 17,544 lbs. of food in one morning at Union Station.
Hunger requires a community response. In order for us to make an impact, we must all work together toward a common goal. During the 2015 holidays, our generous neighbors provided that response.

In only November and December, the Greater Chicago Food Depository’s 1 City, 1 Food Drive campaign collected 475,000 pounds of food and $305,000 – the equivalent of more than 1.3 million meals for hungry individuals in our community.

This year’s campaign included 500 food drives, and Chicagoans didn’t miss an opportunity to donate. Commuters at Union, Millennium and Ogilvie stations donated thousands of pounds of shelf-stable food. This year’s top food drives were run by the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) of Chicago, Chicago Bulls, City of Chicago and InterPark.

The top virtual food drives were organized by Morningstar, the ChiTech start-up community and SmithBucklin.

Big or small, corporate or individual, every food drive and every can of food donated during the holidays makes a difference as the Food Depository continues responding to an elevated level of need. Thank you to everyone who made this year’s 1 City, 1 Food Drive effort a success!

To learn more or start a food drive, visit chicagosfoodbank.org/fooddrive

Monday, February 8, 2016

Food Depository partners with rooftop greenhouse to raise awareness, fight hunger

Gotham Greens' leafy greens are sold at retailers throughout the Chicago area and are co-branded with the Food Depository's logo.

The Greater Chicago Food Depository has joined Gotham Greens – a global pioneer in the field of urban agriculture and leading regional produce company– to raise awareness of the fight against hunger in our community. The Brooklyn based company recently opened its 4th greenhouse facility here in Chicago, marking the company’s first expansion outside of New York.

Gotham Greens’ premium quality produce is grown in the company’s 75,000 square foot rooftop greenhouse, located in the historic Pullman neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. The greenhouse is powered by 100% renewable energy, employs over 50 local workers and will produce nearly 10 million annual crops. This year-round, pesticide free produce is sold to local retailers and restaurants providing Chicagoans with premium quality, hyper-local produce that often hits store shelves and restaurant plates the very same day it’s been harvested, 365 days a year.

As part of the new partnership, all of Gotham Greens’ packaged salads have been co-branded with the Food Depository’s logo, helping raises awareness for hunger while highlighting the need for fresh produce for everyone in our community. Gotham Greens also regularly donates their fresh, locally-grown produce to the Food Depository, and has committed to donating at least 6,000 packages of product this year.

"An important part of the fight against hunger is raising awareness,” said Kate Maehr, Food Depository executive director and CEO. “Our partnership with Gotham Greens is an innovative way to do just that.”

“Gotham Greens is especially proud to contribute to the important work being done in areas of food security by valued partners like the Food Depository,” said Viraj Puri, Gotham Greens CEO.

Check out a story on Fox 32 featuring the new Gotham Greens facility and the company's partnership with the Food Depository.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

AmeriCorps manager of VA food pantry attends State of the Union address

Loretta Coleman, left, and U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth.

Service to others is woven into the fabric of Loretta Coleman’s life. She spent 10 years in the U.S. Armed Forces, including four years of active duty in the Air Force and six years in the Army Reserve. She’s currently an AmeriCorps member, managing the Greater Chicago Food Depository veterans pantry at Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago.

“There’s always an opportunity to lend a helping hand, no matter how small,” she said. “It’s a part of who I am.”

In honor of her dedication to service, Loretta was invited by U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) in January to attend the State of the Union address in Washington, D.C.

“I felt honored to be chosen,” she said. “From the moment I got off the plane, it was a whirlwind experience.”

Loretta was excited to be a part of President Obama’s final State of the Union, but was even more appreciative of what the President said about the importance of those serving our country.

“That’s part of what makes this nation great – that people are willing to give of themselves,” she said.

In addition to attending the address, Loretta took a tour of the White House and the Washington monuments.

She returned home with a reinforced conviction that helping others should be an important part of everyone’s lives. She also returned home with hope – that despite the continuing need among veterans in Cook County, there’s progress being made.

“I’d like to see a day when we don’t need food pantries for veterans, but the reality is that we do,” she said. “But I know how grateful they are, and how much we’re making a difference.”  

The veterans pantries at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center and Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital serve as many as 3,000 individuals per month.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Food Depository, County unveil Food Access Plan

From left to right at the unveiling of the Cook County Food Access Plan, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Vision of Restoration food pantry coordinator Tanya Lee, Cook County Health and Hospitals System CEO John Jay Shannon, Food Depository executive director and CEO Kate Maehr, Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin and Village of Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins.

A two-year plan led by the Greater Chicago Food Depository and Cook County aims to strengthen the response to food insecurity and expand access to nutritious food in the county's suburbs.

On Tuesday, the Food Depository and County unveiled the Cook County Food Access Plan.

“The plan provides a roadmap to increase the availability of nutritious food for people in need,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

The Plan focuses on three goals:

  • Expanding a food insecurity screening and referral system at Cook County Health and Hospitals System locations to increase patient access to community food resources as needed.
  • Creating a Suburban Cook County Child Nutrition work group to increase student access and participation in School Breakfast and Summer Meals programs.
  • Growing the use of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and incentive programs at farmers markets and farm stands throughout Cook County.
The Plan will be implemented by an appointed task force, which will be housed in the County President’s office.

“Hunger is a solvable problem, but it does require work and collaboration. Together, we want to make sure everyone in our community has access to quality nutrition and healthy food so they can live healthy lives,” said Kate Maehr, Food Depository executive director and CEO.

As the Plan gets underway, the need in Cook County remains high. One in six people – more than 812,000 – are turning to the Food Depository’s network for food each year. Last year, the Food Depository distributed 68 million pounds of food, including nearly 24 million pounds of produce.

For more information, read the full Food Access Plan.

Monday, January 4, 2016

New Illinois law expands SNAP access to more low-income families

Food Depository advocates asked lawmakers to support S.B. 1847 during Lobby Day in Springfield last May.

An Illinois law that took effect January 1 will enable more low-income families to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

Senate Bill 1847 increases the SNAP income limit from 130 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) to 165 percent of FPL. The expanded limit provides access to SNAP for families that were making slightly too much to qualify for the program but still struggling. It is estimated that the new law will enable 40,000 previously ineligible families to receive SNAP benefits.

Food Depository staff, volunteers and partner agencies encouraged lawmakers to support the bill during Lobby Day in Springfield last May. It passed through the General Assembly with bipartisan support and was signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner in July.

For more information about the Food Depository’s advocacy efforts, visit chicagosfoodbank.org/advocacy.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A holiday wish come true

Orlando Collins overcame homelessness and hunger with the help of a Greater Chicago Food Depository partner agency.

In 2013, Orlando Collins spent Christmas in a homeless shelter.

He’d lost his job at a car wash the year before and the building he was living in got foreclosed on. Soon after, he found the Franciscan House of Mary and Joseph Shelter, a Greater Chicago Food Depository member agency in Chicago’s Garfield Park neighborhood.

“I thank God the shelter was there for me,” Orlando said. “It got me off the streets, stopped me from sleeping in abandoned buildings or trains.”

At the shelter, Orlando got a hot meal every day, prepared from food the shelter receives from the Food Depository.

“If it weren’t for this food, I wouldn’t have been able to stay focused. It really helped me move forward,” Orlando said.

While he was at the shelter, Orlando earned his food safety certification and started a part time job at a commercial kitchen. He had one wish.

“I really just want my own place to live,” he said in December 2013. “That’s what makes a difference. And this year, I think I can make that happen.”

And he did.

Orlando saved enough to pay rent and in July 2014 he moved out of the shelter and into a studio apartment in Wicker Park.

“It’s incredible,” he said. “I can open my own fridge; sleep in my own bed, there’s a real sense of pride to having my own place now.”

He also got a new job at a familiar place – the shelter. He’s working 35 hours per week, cooking all the dinners using food the agency receives from the Food Depository.

“I feel like I’m really giving something back,” he said. “I love cooking and seeing the smiles on the other people’s faces, but I also want to motivate the other guys. I did it. I want them to know they can succeed too.”

Orlando continues to get his life back on track and is starting to look toward the future. He hopes to open a restaurant one day. But before that, he’s looking forward to spending Christmas in his own home.

“I can’t wait to prepare a meal for my family,” he said, pausing. “It’s something I’ve been really looking forward to doing. It touches me and brings tears to my eyes. I’m proud that I’ve come this far.”

You can make an immediate impact in the lives of hungry people across our community by visiting http://chicagosfoodbank.org/give