Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Summer meals offer nutrition for kids and teens

Children eat lunch outside the McKinley Library
On a sunny June afternoon, children come running down the sidewalk behind McKinley Library on Chicago’s Southwest Side. Each kid walks away with a boxed meal from the Lunch Bus, including nutritious food like raisins, whole-grain Goldfish crackers, milk, and applesauce. Once the school year is out, these meals fulfill a crucial need, feeding children who count on free and reduced-price lunches at school.

Summer can be a challenging time for low-income families who struggle to afford food and childcare. The Summer Food Service Program ensures that children still have access to nourishing meals. Since 1968, the USDA has funded the Summer Food Service Program with a grant to state agencies, who reimburse community organizations like the Greater Chicago Food Depository to deliver the meals where they are needed most. This summer, the Food Depository expects to serve more than 600,000 meals at more than 300 sites.

Lunch Buses travel throughout the city and south suburbs all summer, transporting meals to easily accessible neighborhood sites every weekday. Find the full Lunch Bus route here. Since these meals are only available to children and teens 18 and under, interns and volunteers also help adults find food pantries by distributing informational flyers.

Joe has volunteered as a Lunch Bus driver for the past three years.  His reason for volunteering is simple: “It makes you feel good.” At the McKinley Library, he works with Christian, a Food Depository AmeriCorps intern, to distribute more than 75 meals in 20 minutes. Children eat their lunches in a small park beside the library, while parents enjoy an opportunity for outdoor time with their kids.

Christian and Joe with the Lunch Bus

Christian is spending his second summer as an intern on the Lunch Bus. “Seeing the kids’ faces every day is my favorite part,” he says. “It’s really humbling.” Christian answers parents’ questions about the program in English and Spanish and tracks the number of meals served at each site.

From the library, the Lunch Bus proceeds to St. Pancratius church in Brighton Park. After receiving their lunches, children line up to receive free age-appropriate books from Bernie’s Book Bank.  By distributing books alongside the Lunch Bus, Bernie’s Book Bank supports literacy for children in need. Children express their excitement and gratitude for both the books and the meals.

Although the Lunch Bus serves thousands of meals, an unmet need remains: only 14 percent of children who receive free and reduced-price meals during the school year utilize summer meals. Families in need of summer meals can find their nearest site by texting FOODIL to 877877, calling 800-359-2163, or visiting summerfeedingillinois.org to locate meal sites.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Chicago's largest anti-hunger rally takes place June 25th


With summer in full swing, the 31st Annual Hunger Walk is just around the corner. Here’s what to expect in Jackson Park on the morning of June 25th.

The Hunger Walk is an annual two-mile walk along the lakefront. Proceeds benefit the Food Depository’s partner agencies, including food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters throughout Cook County. Funds raised during Hunger Walk support these agencies’ operations throughout the year, ensuring that they can provide nutritious food to children, families, and individuals in need.

For some agencies, the funds raised at Hunger Walk cover all their operating expenses for the entire year. One such agency is featured at the beginning of the short video above, illustrating why a few individuals plan to participate in Hunger Walk. “It’s not only food, but also our equipment for our pantry we’re able to purchase with the funds from Hunger Walk,” says Marva Hines-Brown, who coordinates the food pantry at Covenant United Church of Christ in the southern suburb of South Holland.

Live entertainment from local performers enlivens the Hunger Walk. From the inspirational R&B of fourteen-year-old Lyr!c to the house and dance music of Jameisha Trice and Dana Devine, the morning’s performers will offer a variety of upbeat sounds to kick off the day. Additional performers include T Star and the Evanston School of Rock House Band.

A children’s tent provides activities for the youngest Hunger Walk participants, including face painting. Participants are welcome to continue the fun with barbecues and picnics in the park: a designated grilling area will be available along the course. Sponsor tents will also be present, offering giveaways and information from the Hunger Walk’s premier sponsors: ABC7 Chicago, ConAgra Foods, Griffith Foods, Jewel-Osco, Kraft Heinz Company, and Tyson Foods.


Registration for Hunger Walk opens at 7 a.m., with the walk starting at 8:30 a.m. Join us at Chicago’s largest anti-hunger rally, or make a contribution to support a participating team. Learn more at chicagosfoodbank.org/hungerwalk.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Record high audit score demonstrates a commitment to food safety

The Food Depository's warehouse meets stringent standards for food safety.
Food safety is a priority for the Greater Chicago Food Depository team. As part of this commitment to ensuring that the food we distribute is safe, the Food Depository undergoes a rigorous annual assessment: the Distribution Center Food Safety and Quality Systems Audit, administered by Merieux NutriSciences.

“We strive to be leaders in food safety, excelling beyond the status quo,” says Michael Goss, Manager of Food Safety. While the Food Depository has consistently scored above 98% on this assessment, this year set a new record. The Food Depository achieved a score of 99.1% on the food safety audit, its highest score ever.

This year, the audit requirements were significantly revised, increasing the challenge for the Food Depository team. In a short amount of time, they conducted a hazard analysis, reviewing every process in the warehouse and documenting how they control and eliminate all hazards.  Some of the crucial programs that are used to control hazards include employee training, warehouse best practices, temperature control, and vendor approval procedures.

Preparation for the food safety audit involved a coordinated effort for staff. With over 200,000 square feet of warehouse space, the Food Depository facility contains an ever-changing variety of shelf-stable and fresh food.  Both the facility and documentation are covered in the audit, which comprises a 470-point evaluation. Every element of the operation, from equipment to sanitation to pest control and more, is included in the audit.

According to Michael Goss, the outstanding success on the food safety audit goes beyond a checklist of best practices: it’s part of the culture. “Food safety culture really became the focus,” he says. “There was a lot of ongoing training and support. The entire organization really embraced the culture and it made a difference. Everybody really cares and works as a team.”

Sheila Creghin, Vice President of Operations, agrees that the team’s united effort made the difference: “The audit results represent the dedicated commitment of our great team day in and day out to ensure the food we distribute to our partner agencies in our community is safe for the clients we serve.”

Congratulations to the Food Depository team on ensuring safe and wholesome food for the community!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Food Depository to participate in veteran Stand Down, honors those who served



From June 10-11, the Greater Chicago Food Depository will be participating in the Veteran Stand Down at General Jones Armory. The event provides homeless veterans with food, clothing, shelter, medical services, and other assistance. The veterans will receive a hot meal prepared by Chicago’s Community Kitchens – the Food Depository’s 14-week food service job-training program. The Food Depository will also provide bags of food to take with them as they leave.

The most recent Stand Down in November provided hot meals for 800 veterans and volunteers and distributed over 6,900 pounds of food. Each of the 609 veterans that attended received bags of shelf stable food and fresh produce. The Food Depository expects to serve 750 veterans at this summer’s Stand Down.

The need among veterans in Cook County is significant. Over 16,000 veterans in our community live at or below the poverty line, and 18% of households that turn to the Food Depository’s network for assistance include at least one person who has served or is currently serving in the Armed Forces. In addition to the Stand Downs, the Food Depository operates food pantries at two VA facilities, the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center and the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital. These food pantries distribute food to over 3,000 veterans in need each month. The Food Depository also provides SNAP application assistance to veterans. 

To learn more about the Food Depository’s response to hunger among veterans, visit chicagosfoodbank.org/veterans.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Chicagoland businesses raise more than $82,000 to combat summertime hunger

The Greater Chicago Food Depository’s second annual LunchTime to End Hunger campaign, which ran from May 16-20, raised $82,763 in support of the organization's summer feeding initiatives for children. Thirty-one companies participated as teams in this year’s competition. The top three fundraisers were Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP ($12,575 raised), Levenfeld Pearlstein, LLC ($10,400 raised), and Guggenheim Partners ($9,130 raised). 

The Food Depository congratulates the top teams, and thanks each of the businesses that participated in this year’s competition. Every team made a tremendous impact, with an average of $2,500 raised per team. Many businesses found creative ways to fundraise, including bake-offs, internal fundraising competitions, and hosting luncheons. 

The LunchTime to End Hunger campaign encouraged participants to donate what they would normally spend on lunch for a week to the Food Depository. Funds raised will provide the equivalent of more than 276,000 meals for children this summer. This support makes an incredible impact as the Food Depository serves 812,000 clients each year, or 1 in 6 Cook County residents.  

To learn more about the campaign, visit chicagosfoodbank.org/lunch.  

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