Thursday, March 28, 2013

AmeriCorps partnership helps serve the hungry in Garfield Park

Every year, the Greater Chicago Food Depository hosts AmeriCorps members through the AmeriCorps State/National Program. The individuals are placed in member agencies and are utilized to assist with day-to-day pantry operations, community volunteer recruitment and retention, fundraising and nutrition and health education. The following post is an update from AmeriCorps member Tonisha Daniel, who is currently serving at Breakthrough Urban Ministries in Garfield Park:

I am completing my second AmeriCorps service year as a volunteer coordinator for Breakthrough Urban Ministries Fresh Market Department. Breakthrough's Fresh Market is a dynamic food client choice food pantry which provides shelf-stable food, fresh produce, meat, and dairy products to between 800 - 1000 households every month in the east Garfield Park community. In addition to managing more than 60 volunteers I also help provide members of the community with access to additional resources, services, and learning opportunities with the ultimate goal of helping establish a self-reliant, sustaining community.

Breakthrough Urban Ministries Fresh Market
The majority of our food received comes from the Greater Chicago Food Depository every two weeks. Food provided by the Food Depository allows us to feed our growing number of clients we serve each week and allows us to distribute food three days every week. I see ever day how the Greater Chicago Food Depository helps neighborhood pantries  strengthen communities.

Fresh Market recently established Friends and Family Week to increase hunger awareness, reach out to community members and honor our volunteers. This was our first event and it went so well that we’ve decided to host it twice every year. Volunteers brought their friends and family, staff members joined in the festivities and all were able to experience the great things that happen at Fresh Market. During that week we signed up 10 new volunteers and we honored one of our longtime volunteers for their outstanding commitment and service.

Friends and Family Week at Breakthrough Urban Ministries

Volunteering at Breakthrough Urban Ministries has definitely opened my eyes to a world outside of my own. I grew up in a safe, comfortable environment with my family and knew nothing about what poverty or food insecurity looked like. This entire two-year journey has definitely opened my eyes and helped shape my future career path. While completing my AmeriCorps commitment, I have learned four important lessons of community development and engagement: (1) the importance of assessment and evaluation, (2) the delicate process of working with a variety of stakeholders, (3) the absolute necessity of providing a clear, long-term vision, and (4) the importance of leadership to inspire others to act.

The Food Depository and AmeriCorps have taught me the importance of organizations that are not afraid to think outside of the box. Not only will I work tirelessly to advocate for marginalized individuals and communities, but I hope to partner with other community leaders in efforts to alleviate issues such as poverty, job insecurity, and insufficient resources that affect many neighborhoods in the Chicago area.

For more information on the Food Depository's programs and how you can support the fight against hunger, visit

Monday, March 4, 2013

Kate Maehr receives Dick Goebel Award

Kate Maehr, Executive Director and CEO
Kate Maehr has made advocacy a priority as Executive Director and CEO of the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Last night, Kate's efforts gained national recognition. Feeding America, the nation's leading domestic hunger-relief charity, presented Kate the 2013 Dick Goebel Public Service award at the National Anti-Hunger Conference in Washington. The award is given to the individual who exemplifies service to their communities, extensive public policy advocacy, and tireless energy and creativity in developing solutions to help reach increasing numbers. 

“Kate has placed advocacy at the core of the Greater Chicago Food Depository’s work during her tenure as the Executive Director. Through her leadership, she has helped to engage anti-hunger advocates throughout Illinois, getting busloads of people to go to Springfield to develop and move forward recommendations to address the needs of the most vulnerable in our communities,” said Bob Aiken, President and CEO of Feeding America. “She has developed strong relationships with leaders in local, state, and federal government, always pressing for, protecting and strengthening the federal food and nutrition safety net. Kate shows this passion and commitment every day and typifies everything that this award represents.”

Through Kate's leadership, Illinois established its first Commission to End Hunger, a permanent body chaired by Kate and Illinois Deputy Governor Cristal Thomas. Advocacy is a key element of the Food Depository's five-year Strategic Plan, leading to successes including the establishment of a champion-advocates network of member agency leaders who advocate for strong food and nutrition policy. Kate has led representatives of member agencies on visits to Springfield and Washington, meeting with elected officials to let them know of the severity of hunger in Cook County. She also has hosted a number of key elected officials at the Food Depository, including Sen. Dick Durbin, Gov. Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, to discuss policies that affect the lives of hungry people. Every September, in Hunger Action Month, Kate takes part in the SNAP Challenge to raise awareness of the difficulty of living on a SNAP/Food Stamp budget. She has activated Food Depository supporters, including board members, donors and volunteers, to send letters and make calls to their elected officials on key issues.

The Dick Goebel Award was created in 2001 to honor the founder of the St. Paul Food Bank. Goebel was a powerful force in the creation and expansion of the food bank network nationwide. Past recipients include a number of notable figures in national hunger-relief efforts. Congratulations, Kate! We are proud to be part of your team.