Thursday, January 12, 2012

Food prices remain a challenge

People ask us all the time: how are you faring in this economy? For the past few years, we've been able to say that we've fared well--because of the generosity of Chicagoans we have been able to distribute more food. This year, though, the answer is different. It's a challenge to keep up with demand.

Global food prices hit an all-time high in 2011. We see that impact every day, in three ways:

  • More individuals and families are turning to us because their grocery budgets are strained.
  • Sources of government food have declined as dollars just don't go as far as they once did.
  • It's more expensive for us to purchase food.

The number of people we serve remains as high as ever. It's just becoming more challenging to keep pantry shelves stocked. We've distributed nearly 4 million fewer pounds of "USDA" food this year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture provided much more last year when prices weren't as high. We can purchase more food, but that only goes so far. The cost of peanut butter alone has nearly doubled in one year.

The result is further pressure on everything we do. We were so fortunate to see a great response from Chicagoans this holiday season. But the need persists. You can get involved by organizing a food drive, volunteering, advocating or making a financial contribution. You can help us--and more important, hungry people--fare well.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Hybrid vehicle added to fleet

The Food Depository's first-ever hybrid vehicle will hit the road tomorrow. As part of Goal 5 of our 2010-2015 Strategic Plan, we have emphasized implementing environmentally sustainable practices. The truck was donated by the Emilio and Silvio Troianello Trust and the Koropp family. It will be on the road Thursday, delivering meals to Kids Cafes.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

South Side agency works to nourish the whole family

Delorise Chambers shops for fresh pineapples at the monthly Greater Chicago Food Depository 
Mobile Pantry distribution at K.L.E.O Community Family Life Center on Dec. 7.

South Side K.L.E.O Community Family Life Center opened its Kids Cafe program in 2008. In partnership with the Greater Chicago Food Depository, the community center provides hot meals and after-school programming to more than 70 elementary school children each weekday.

“A lot of kids were trying to take food home,” said Torrey Barrett, executive director of K.L.E.O. “We figured out that they were taking it home [because] the parents weren’t eating. We reached out to the Food Depository to ask if there was a way to start serving the parents of the children we are serving.”

The Food Depository suggested adding K.L.E.O. to its Mobile Pantry route. In March 2010, the Mobile Pantry began delivering a truck load of fresh fruit, vegetables and nonperishable food once a month. As word spread about the new program, the distribution soon grew to serve nearly 200 people each month. Clients began asking Torrey and his staff for help with other obstacles they were facing, besides food.

 “We were having a couple hundred people come here every first Wednesday, but we didn’t have anything for them to do as we were preparing the food,” Torrey said. K.L.E.O. reached out to University of Chicago for help. The university’s Diabetes Outcome Research Program began attending distributions to offer health education, free blood pressure readings and other resources to help those struggling with diabetes and other health concerns.

During a frigid December afternoon, dozens of volunteers work to prepare tables of food for the afternoon’s distribution.

“I like what they’re doing out here,” said first-time volunteer Rose Rice as she packs bags of sweet potatoes for clients coming through the line. “It’s just a good thing.”

Hurlon Jackson is visiting the Mobile Pantry after hearing about it last month.

“I’m grateful for this,” Hurlon said. “[The Mobile Pantry] helps tremendously, especially in this area where they don’t have a lot of stores. The smaller neighborhood stores are more expensive and don’t have the fresh produce.”

For Delorise Chambers, the Mobile Pantry keeps her family from going hungry.

“This is a blessing,” said Delorise. “If [the Mobile Pantry] wasn’t available we would just be short. Some days we wouldn’t eat because there’s no money.”

Although Delorise retired in 1994, her two daughters try to help with bills and house payments, but lately it is just not enough. The family has fallen behind on their housing costs as both daughters struggle to find employment.

Green McClelellan also is dealing with unemployment. After 15 years at a global mailing company, Green lost his job three months ago during a staff reconfiguration.

“This is my first time here,” said Green. “There’s no food at my house right now. We’re doing the best we can.”