Friday, October 25, 2013

52 Stories, 52 Weeks: Bracing for change

Crystal Cochran receives more than $500 in SNAP benefits per month, and gets fresh fruit, vegetables and canned goods from St. James Food Pantry.
As lawmakers prepare to debate the Farm Bill, which will likely include cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Crystal Cochran, 27, knows that any reduction in benefits would make it more difficult for her family to afford food.

“I receive just over $500 in food stamps every month,” she said. “I try to make due, but cuts would be hard.”

Crystal used to work full-time in retail, but was laid off recently. She now works 20 hours per week in home healthcare. She struggles to feed her 4 and 8-year-old children, and receives assistance from the St. James Food Pantry, a Greater Chicago Food Depository member agency in the Bronzeville neighborhood.

“I run out of food stamps before the end of the month all the time, so this helps me bridge the gap,” she said.

She comes to the pantry twice a month. She receives fresh fruit, vegetables, and meat, which helps feed her growing children.

“I don’t know what I would do living without it. I just wouldn’t have enough food otherwise,” she said.

Crystal remains upbeat, despite potential cuts to SNAP, and the loss of her full-time job.

“I volunteer at my children’s school and at the food pantry,” she said. “Like the food I get at St. James, that helps me live.”

On November 1, automatic cuts to SNAP will go into effect because of the expiration of the 2009 Stimulus. Benefits for every SNAP household will decline. Independent of the Nov. 1 decrease, lawmakers will begin debating SNAP cuts in the Farm Bill on Wednesday. The House has suggested cutting $40 billion from the program, while the Senate's bill would slash $4 billion in SNAP funding.

Any cuts to SNAP will create an increase in need. Join us in telling lawmakers that cutting federal nutrition safety net programs is unacceptable.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Volunteers harvest corn, squash at local farm

A Greater Chicago Food Depository volunteer harvests corn in Marengo.
The Greater Chicago Food Depository is committed to distributing fresh produce to its member agencies. For the second consecutive fiscal year, one third of the Food Depository’s distribution was fresh produce. That produce comes to the Food Depository in a variety of ways – from distributors, to wholesalers, to growers. While all donation avenues are critical, one is particularly hands on: the annual corn and squash harvest.

Each summer, because of a generous landowner, Food Depository staff and volunteers travel to a farm in Marengo, Illinois, to harvest sweet corn and squash directly from the fields. Once harvested, the corn and squash are placed on a Food Depository truck and are brought back to the warehouse, where they are sorted and distributed just days later via the Producemobile.

This year, more than 100 volunteers harvested approximately 84,500 pounds of corn across 10 acres and thousands of pounds of squash on 3.5 acres. Thank you to all those who volunteered, as you helped bring fresh produce to hungry men, women, and children in Cook County!

If you'd like to get involved in the fight against hunger by volunteering at Food Depository events or in our warehouse, visit

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Farm Bill debate set to restart

If SNAP funding is cut, more individuals will be forced to turn to food assistance programs.
Starting October 30, lawmakers in Washington, D.C. from both the House of Representatives and the Senate will meet in a conference committee to construct a Farm Bill that can be agreed upon by both chambers. There is still much uncertainty surrounding the final makeup of the legislation. However, any proposal is likely to include cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Currently, the Senate’s version of the Farm Bill suggests $4.5 billion in SNAP cuts, while the House’s version includes $40 billion in cuts. The conference committee will be tasked with reconciling these two proposals. No specific timeline for a decision has been announced, but lawmakers are emphasizing passage of a bill before the next budget deadline. The Greater Chicago Food Depository opposes any cuts to SNAP, as it is clear that any cut to the program would create an increase in need across the country and would potentially erase the first line of defense against hunger for millions of men, women, and children.

As lawmakers debate the Farm Bill in conference committee, it is critical legislators know how devastating any cut to SNAP would be. The Food Depository regularly advocates for continued funding for federal nutrition safety net programs, and you can lift your voice and join us in this effort by contacting your lawmakers to tell them cuts to SNAP are unacceptable.

To learn more about the Food Depository’s advocacy efforts, and find ways to get involved, visit

Friday, October 18, 2013

52 Stories, 52 Weeks: Securing a bright future

Dave Rauch receives food from a Greater Chicago Food Depository Mobile Pantry in Chicago Heights.
“I just want my family to have a good life. I want my kids to have a better life than I had,” said Dave Rauch, 54.

That’s why Dave was standing in line at a Greater Chicago Food Depository Mobile Pantry in South Suburban Chicago Heights recently.

“I’ve got to be the supporter of my three kids and wife,” he said. “I’ve got to do anything I can to not sink. The food I get here helps my family stay afloat.”

Dave has two teenage daughters and a six-year-old son. One daughter wants to be an engineer. She is a sophomore in high school, and has already been contacted by college recruiters. Dave’s other daughter hopes to be a teacher after going to community college, and Dave’s son just started first grade.

The food Dave receives at the Mobile Pantry allows him to support his children’s dreams.

“Everything helps,” he said. “What I get here lets us hold back from going to the grocery store and lets us stretch the food we have even more.”

Dave turns to the food distribution for assistance because he was recently laid off from his union construction job, which he held for more than 30 years. Now, he is working full time as a welder in a factory. But he still has trouble making ends meet.

“It’s tough out there because there are so few jobs available,” he said. “But I’m doing what I can to make sure my kids have a bright future.”

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How is the government shutdown affecting food assistance programs?

Hundreds of thousands of men, women, and in children are in jeopardy of losing their food assistance if the government shutdown continues.
As the federal government shutdown continues, vital programs in our nation’s food and nutrition safety net are jeopardized.

In Illinois, the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program is funded through the end of the month. Currently, USDA contingency funding and state money is keeping the program operational. However, if the government shutdown continues until November 1, many of the 280,000 individuals in Illinois who use the WIC program could see suspended benefits.

Similarly, households using Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits will continue to receive their benefits through October. But, if the shutdown continues, SNAP will cease operations on November 1. For the more than 2 million individuals on SNAP in Illinois, any benefits currently on a Link card will remain there, but no new benefits will be deposited into a recipient’s account.

Also on November 1, independent of the shutdown’s effects, the 2009 Recovery Act’s temporary boost to SNAP funding will expire. This decrease means the maximum benefit for all SNAP households will shrink. For a household of one, the maximum benefit will drop $11. For a household of two, the maximum benefit will decrease $20, for a household of three, the benefit will decrease $29, and it will drop $36 for a household of four.

The Greater Chicago Food Depository strongly opposes any cuts to nutrition programs, regardless of whether the programs terminate operations because of the shutdown, or see funding cut due to legislator action. These programs are the first line of defense against hunger in the United States for millions of men, women, and children. Any lapse or reduction in funding would create an increase in need.

To find out more about the Food Depository’s legislative advocacy efforts, visit

Friday, October 11, 2013

52 Stories, 52 Weeks: 'We just don't have enough money for food'

Monica works 40 hours per week, but still struggles to afford food for her family.
Monica Galvan lives in Streamwood, and works 40 hours per week in a minimum wage healthcare job, while her husband works at a moving company. Despite both of their jobs, the couple struggles to feed their 13-year-old and 4-year-old sons.

“By the time we’re done paying our gas, electricity, and other utility bills, we just don’t have enough money for food,” Monica said.

The family receives fresh fruit, vegetables, canned goods, and protein at the Church of the Holy Spirit Food Pantry in nearby Schaumburg.

"We absolutely rely on food pantries or else we would really struggle to eat, period,” Monica said.

The food pantry serves approximately 2,000 individuals per month, many of which have part-time and full-time jobs.

Friday, October 4, 2013

52 Stories, 52 Weeks: Building skills for success

Marco Lopez graduated from the Chicago's Community Kitchens program in September.
Marco Lopez, 22, is driven and passionate about succeeding. He always aspired to be a chef, but his plans were derailed in March, when he was let go from his job at a catering company.

Unable to find a job and struggling to make ends meet, he discovered the Greater Chicago Food Depository’s Chicago’s Community Kitchens program.

“If I hadn’t found CCK, I might still be looking for a job. There’s just nothing available right now,” he said.
Chicago’s Community Kitchens is a 14-week foodservice training program for unemployed and underemployed individuals. The program gives students a solid foundation in food preparation, as well as professional skills training, such as resume building.

Marco saw CCK as a lifeline, a chance to improve his skills while opening up new opportunities in his future.
“I just want to get better at what I’m doing,” he said.

During the 14-week program, Marco needed to arrive at the Food Depository every weekday by 7:30 a.m. He worked in the kitchen, learning how to chop, grill, sauté, and measure food. He also worked in the classroom, passing required culinary math tests, and earning his ServSafe food sanitation certificate.

After finishing the day around 3:30 p.m., Marco started his second day – to make money to support himself, he delivered newspapers from 8 p.m. – 2 a.m. every day, before getting up around 5 a.m. to start over again.

“It wasn’t easy,” he said. “But it was absolutely worth it. Getting more experience in the kitchen is really important to me.”

Marco’s efforts were rewarded. He graduated from the Chicago’s Community Kitchens program in September and is now working at Farmhouse Restaurant in Evanston.

“It’s all about being dedicated. This program gave me more experience, more confidence and a drive to be better. It was great.”

For more information on the Chicago's Community Kitchens program, visit

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Food Depository launches 'Spot Our Truck' social media challenge

Every day, the Greater Chicago Food Depository distributes around 200,000 pounds of food across Cook County with its fleet of more than 40 vehicles, including the Producemobile, Mobile Pantry, Sprinter vans, and semi trucks. On any given day, a Food Depository truck might be making a delivery in far southern Sauk Village, while another might be driving through the Lakeview neighborhood, or even north suburban Schaumburg.

When you see one of our trucks in your neighborhood, we want you to tell us! If you see a Food Depository truck on the road or in your neighborhood in October, take a picture and share it with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram using the hashtag #BigGreenTruck. Individuals who have shared a photo with us will be entered into a weekly drawing for a Food Depository t-shirt!

Rules: Social media posts must use the hashtag #BigGreenTruck, must tag the Food Depository, must be public, and must mention where the vehicle was seen. Users can post as many photos as they would like, but will only be counted once for the weekly t-shirt drawing. Entries do not roll over to the following week. Please refrain from taking photos of Food Depository vehicles while driving. Winners will be chosen on 10/11, 10/18, 10/25, and 11/1.

Connect with the Food Depository on Twitter at @FoodDepository, on Facebook, and on Instagram at FoodDepository.