Monday, January 19, 2015

1 City, 1 Food Drive collects 1.3 million meals

The Union Station food drive collected nearly 15,000 pounds of food in less than 24 hours.

Throughout November and December, the Food Depository’s 1 City, 1 Food Drive campaign united more than 500 food drives with 250 public donation locations across Cook County. This year’s campaign collected more than 1.3 million meals for hungry men, women and children in our community.

Some of the highlights from this year’s campaign included the Union Station Food Drive, which collected more than 14,800 pounds of food in less than 24 hours. Commuters were given food drive bags and asked to return them full of shelf-stable groceries the following morning. Another highlight was the food drive celebration at the Merchandise Mart in late November, which brought together Food Depository supporters, volunteers, staff and donors to proclaim to Chicago that no one should go hungry.

In addition to physical food drives, virtual food drives were an important part of the 1 City, 1 Food Drive effort. The top virtual drive was Morningstar, which collected more than $76,000, the equivalent of 228,377 meals. Overall, there were nearly 400 virtual food drives throughout November and December, which collected a total of $216,000.

Thank you to everyone who volunteered, participated in a food drive, or started a food drive this holiday season. You made a lasting impact on hunger in our community. And, thank you to our key food drive partners, including the Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago, Boy Scouts of America Chicago Area Council, Chicago Bulls, City of Chicago, Fox Chicago, InterPark, ISSA Family Foundation and Life Time Fitness Turkey Day 5K.

Food drives are critical during the holidays, but are needed year-round. Start one now.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The 1 in 5: A guaranteed meal

A group of boys at the Falcon Park Kids Cafe hang out after finishing their meal.

Every day after school around 3 o’clock, a bus full of children arrives at the Falcon Park Recreation Center in Palatine for the Kids Cafe. The students pour out, laughing and smiling, toting backpacks full of homework. They are a mix of first through sixth graders, bundled in brightly colored hats, coats and scarves. Despite their differences in age, they have one thing in common: they are all at risk of hunger.

“The resources for healthy, affordable food just don’t exist in this area,” said Courtney Renwick, the program coordinator for the Buehler YMCA’s Kids Cafe at Falcon Park.

Even though it is surrounded by an affluent suburban community, the Kids Cafe – a Greater Chicago Food Depository program – fills a significant need, as one in seven children in Palatine lives in poverty.

“There’s a huge disparity between residents in Palatine,” Courtney said. “Some are well off, but there is also a population that is really struggling.”

The Kids Cafe serves a meal to approximately 40 children each day. On a recent Wednesday, students received a tuna sandwich, fruit, raisins and milk. Some of the children won’t eat again until breakfast at school the following morning.

“I have to fight for food when I go home,” said 12-year-old Ulysses. “I have four sisters and they eat first.”

For Courtney, Ulysses’ situation is neither surprising nor unique.

“There are a lot of basic necessities that aren’t being met in this community,” she said. “You can just tell by how these kids eat the meals. They eat like there’s no tomorrow.”

The program also focuses on homework help.

“Getting meals goes hand-in-hand with good academic performance,” Courtney said.

Around 5 o’clock, a bus picks up the children to take them home. Some will go home to find that there is not a meal waiting for them.

“My favorite fruit is bananas,” Ulysses said. “But we don’t get those at home.”

Despite the inconsistency at home, Ulysses and the rest of the children can count on returning to the Kids Cafe tomorrow, with the guarantee of another meal.

“When they’re here we know they’re getting at least one nutritious meal, and that’s what’s important,” she said.

Kids Cafes are just one of the programs funded by the Child Nutrition Reauthorization – a federal law that supports children’s programs. The law is set to expire on Sep. 30, 2015.

To learn how to get involved in the Food Depository’s advocacy efforts, visit