Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Producemobile distribution comes to Altgeld Gardens

Kimberley Jenkins collects bags of fresh produce from the Producemobile in Altgeld Gardens.

In the past, many residents of Altgeld Gardens have had to walk more than three miles or pay for rides to get fresh produce.

Last week, the Greater Chicago Food Depository’s Producemobile distributed free fresh produce to 150 families in the South Side neighborhood. There will now be a regular distribution in Altgeld Gardens on the fourth Thursday of every month.

Producemobiles take donated fresh fruit and vegetables directly to neighborhoods where produce is expensive or difficult to obtain.

Altgeld Gardens is one of these isolated neighborhoods, located on the far South Side of Chicago, bordered by a wastewater treatment facility and the Little Calumet River.

Bernadette Williams worked alongside the Food Depository to bring the Producemobile to the neighborhood. She said the distribution is going to help many of the neighborhood residents.

‘We’re in a low-income area,” Bernadette said. “People are in dire need of food, especially because we’re in a food desert.”

While there is a neighborhood grocery store less than a half-mile from Altgeld Gardens, many residents said prices are too expensive.

“There are quite a few people out here who have jobs,” Janine Purvis, an Altgeld Gardens resident who received fresh goods from the Producemobile, “but there are also a lot of people who are living on fixed income, on food stamps, on a budget. They can’t afford it.”

Because of high food prices, some have to go without produce or pay for transportation to get to the nearest grocery store. This can also be expensive.

“I can’t afford oranges sometimes at all,” Janine said. “Out here, prices are high, but having to pay bus fare adds to the cost of living.”

Aseneth Edwards has been living in Altgeld Gardens for the past 49 years. She rides the bus with her shopping cart from 130th Street to 87th Street each week to go to a grocery store. She received fresh sweet potatoes, oranges and watermelon among other produce from the Producemobile last week.

“I appreciate it,” Aseneth said. “The first thing I can say is good morning and thank you. Anybody who knows me, that’s me.”

It is one of approximately 50 Producemobile distributions that occur each month throughout Cook County. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Chicago Sky volunteers at Healthy Kids Market

Chicago Sky center Sylvia Fowles distributes fresh produce at a Healthy Kids Market.
Sylvia Fowles spends most of her time blocking shots and scoring baskets for the Chicago Sky. On Wednesday, May 22, Sylvia and her teammates handled nutritious food instead of basketballs.

Behind tables full of fresh fruit and vegetables and healthy shelf-stable food, the Sky took some time after practice and volunteered at the Greater Chicago Food Depository’s Healthy Kids Market at Beidler Elementary School in the East Garfield Park neighborhood.

Healthy Kids Markets provide low-income families with a variety of healthy food options each week, which they can take home to make wholesome meals for their children.

Sylvia said the team thinks it’s important for children to get healthy meals.

“We all know that food is important,” she said. “Everybody needs to eat. Food gets you going throughout your day.”

The Sky and its foundation, Sky Cares, are partnered with the Food Depository and No Kid Hungry Illinois to raise awareness about child hunger in the Chicago area. Currently, 1 in 5 children in Cook County are food insecure.

“That’s a lot of people,” Sylvia said. “It makes you think. It makes you see how fortunate you are to be able to come out here and help.”

Research shows that child hunger can have a negative impact on the academic, physical and behavioral developments of the students.

Nikki Crowder is the Healthy Kids Market coordinator at Beidler Elementary School. She said the program has been effective in making kids aware of better options.

“A lot of them don’t know they have options other than fast food or junk food,” Nikki said. “Now, they are getting used to seeing healthy food and are excited about seeing it and are wanting it.”

Nikki said many of the students at Beidler are raised by their grandparents. This can make it difficult for them to get to pantries to get the food they need. By having a Healthy Kids Market at the school– where parents or guardians already have to come to pick up the children – the Food Depository is creating greater access to nutritious food each week.

See photos of the event on Facebook.

To learn more about the Food Depository’s programs like Healthy Kids Market and how you can support the fight against hunger, visit chicagosfoodbank.org.

Thanks to the Chicago Sky for volunteering!

Monday, May 20, 2013

'Big Bag Tuesday'

More than 30 volunteers help staff the soup kitchen and food pantry at Grant Memorial A.M.E. Church.
The kitchen was humming at Grant Memorial A.M.E. Church in the Oakland neighborhood. Grocery bags full of meat, pasta, beans, tuna, and fresh fruit were being loaded onto carts on a sunny Tuesday afternoon in May, while a line began to form in the church lobby. It’s Tuesday, which means the church is distributing food and hot meals to clients. But, it wasn't just any Tuesday.
It was “Big Bag Tuesday.”
That’s what Program Coordinator Lillie Dawson calls the second Tuesday of each month, when a Greater Chicago Food Depository truck drops off thousands of pounds of food which then gets distributed to people who need help making ends meet in the community.
“We give out bags of food every week, but it won’t be as much as we give today,” she said. “Today the clients are getting a bag with meat, a bag with groceries and a bag with fruits and vegetables, all from the Food Depository.”

Clients get more food to take home on "Big Bag Tuesday" because that is the week the pantry receives fresh produce and meat in addition to shelf-stable food from the Food Depository. The rest of the items will be distributed throughout the month.

Operation P.U.L.L., or People United to Lift Lives, has been keeping up with the increasing need in the Kenwood, Oakland and Grand Boulevard communities since it started as a bi-monthly food distribution at the church 30 years ago.

Lillie has been the program coordinator for nearly four years and has been a volunteer at the church for 13 years.
 “Every year there are more and more people coming through the doors,” she said. “They come to us for help and we don’t turn anyone away.”
The weekly hot meal soup kitchen was added in 1986. Since its inception, Operation P.U.L.L. has received most of its food from the Food Depository.
“People know that we’re here. We are a consistent force in the community. Being connected to the Food Depository helps us so much,” said Rosalind Morgan, who started volunteering at the church after her mother founded the food pantry program in 1983.
The community has continually supported the church's mission. About 30 volunteers operate the pantry every Tuesday and hundreds of people have volunteered since the pantry opened.
“Volunteers come from all over,” Rosalind said. “They are so dedicated. They come in snow, rain, sleet, hail, whatever. They’re that dedicated.”
A volunteer loads grocery bags onto a cart at Grant Memorial A.M.E. Church. The bags, full of food from the Food Depository, will be distributed to anyone who needs them at the soup kitchen.
 Every Tuesday, more than 150 people come to the church for a hot meal and groceries. One of those regulars is William Garner. He has been coming to the pantry for five years because he needs help supplementing the food he gets with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits on his LINK card.
“The LINK card isn’t enough to stretch through the month. Food is expensive,” said William. “This pantry comes in very handy for a lot of people in this neighborhood.
Today, William will get a hot meal plus a bag with meat, canned goods, bread, fruits and vegetables.
“I’m just very grateful that they’re here,” he said.
William is one of 807,000 people in Cook County - 1 in 6 - who are food insecure. Consider a donation to the Food Depository to help fight hunger in our community.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Numbering the need

Five years after the beginning of the economic downturn, hunger in Cook County continues to affect hundreds of thousands of people. New data from the Greater Chicago Food Depository is highlighting the extent of that need in our community.
 “What concerns me is against a backdrop of economic optimism, we continue to see a very different story as it relates to the people who are turning to food pantries and soup kitchens,” said Greater Chicago Food Depository Executive Director and CEO Kate Maehr.
According to recent Food Depository year-to-date data, there has been a staggering 78 percent increase in individuals served at pantries compared to the same period five years ago.
 “We continue to see a record number of people in our community who need food from food pantries in order to make ends meet. As we begin to think about what it looks like in the long term, it becomes increasingly clear that this new normal is one that we’re going to be seeing for a long time,” Kate said.
Further, in March 2013 there were 411,311 individuals served at pantries and 130,742 household visits to pantries in Cook County.
 “It’s going to take continued, sustained efforts to make sure we have quality, nutritious food available and it firms our resolve to be even more aggressive in thinking about how to shorten those lines through our advocacy and programmatic efforts,” Kate said.
The pace of pantry visits has also increased compared to last year. If the first half of FY 2013 is repeated, there will be 308,217 more individual visits compared to last year.
And that’s not a new trend.
Every month in FY 2012 except September saw an increase in the number of individual visits to food pantries. There were 297,742 more visits last year compared to 2011, which averages to 24,812 additional visits per month.
Lillie Dawson sees the growing need every week. She’s the soup kitchen and food pantry program coordinator at Grant Memorial A.M.E Church in Oakland, which has been distributing food from the Food Depository for 30 years.
“Every year there are more and more people. Without the Food Depository, we wouldn’t be able to do what we’ve done for so long,” she said.

There are more than 807,000 men, women and children in Cook County who are food insecure – meaning they’re not sure where their next meal will come from. To learn all the ways you can join the fight against hunger in our community, visit chicagosfoodbank.org.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Lifting our voice: Lobby Day 2013

Anti-hunger advocates gather on the steps of the Illinois State Capitol on May 1, 2013.
Sometimes the fight to end hunger in Cook County requires us to climb the legislative food chain.
That’s what Springfield Lobby Day 2013 was all about.
More than 175 partners, volunteers and staff of the Greater Chicago Food Depository traveled to Springfield on May 1 to discuss ways to end hunger with our elected officials and to lobby for continued support of state and federal programs that help fight hunger.
Doug Schenkelberg is the Food Depository’s vice president of advocacy and outreach.
“All the lawmakers we met with said that they’re in agreement, that hunger is something we have to be fighting and there are way too many people facing food insecurity,” he said.
Government sources make up 62 percent of the nutrition safety net in Illinois.
That’s why Lobby Day is critical, Doug said.
“Government programs play a huge role in us being able to get good quality food out to people. Without that, there isn’t the ability for the private sector to make up that gap.”
This year, anti-hunger advocates with the Food Depository encouraged lawmakers to reject a $5 million cut that would reduce state reimbursements for the Free and Reduced School Breakfast and Lunch Program, and support a $12 million budget increase for the Older Adults Feeding Program.
During the 2011-2012 school year, schools received only 5 cents of additional reimbursement per meal from the state. A proposed FY 2014 budget plan would cut that tiny amount even further, slashing the total available reimbursement funding by 37 percent.
On a federal level, lawmakers have proposed a $20 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
“If SNAP is cut, there isn’t food there that can replace the system,” Doug said. “The system is already running at peak with the demand that’s out there.”
But there is certainly reason for optimism, because lawmakers are listening.
State Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) addresses Food Depository advocates.
“Lawmakers were empathetic with our positions and what we’re challenged to do," said Herman Carnie, the Food Depository’s Director of Food Acquisition, who made the trip for the first time. "I think it really helped them to see the number of green shirts that were there. I think it helped them to see that it wasn’t just one face asking them. It was a whole contingent of people passionate about what they’re doing,” he said.
Food Depository Executive Director and CEO Kate Maehr called Lobby Day, “one of the best days of my life.”
“I think there’s this incredible power in seeing people begin to take the opportunity to lift their own voices. We have to continue to push this forward,” she said.
To see more photos from Lobby Day, check out our Facebook page.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A refreshed look

Since 2010 and the start of its five-year Strategic Plan, the Food Depository has been researching its brand as part of efforts to mobilize the public to end hunger. Prophet, a leading brand agency, began a comprehensive brand assessment in 2012. Prophet’s research showed that a refreshed logo would help the Food Depository better leverage its brand to gain more support to end hunger. The logo, the first new design in more than 25 years, was unveiled on April 26.

The refreshed design reflects the proud history of the Food Depository while looking to a bright future made possible by partners who share a common belief – that no one should go hungry in our community.

All logo design efforts were donated by Prophet.