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The Greater Chicago Food Depository: Ending hunger in Chicago and Cook County

Since 40 years the Chicago based organisation strives to provide food for those in need
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by Kristin Frauenhoffer

According to the US department of agriculture nearly 30 percent of food produced for Americans to eat is wasted. In Cook County, situated in the state of Illinois in the US, one in seven people experiences food insecurity. What does that mean? It means that more than 360.000 people find themselves in circumstances that prevent them to access enough food.


The mission of Greater Chicago Food Depository: end hunger in our community

The  non-profit organisation Greater Chicago Food Depository aims to fill that gap and deliver the food that otherwise would be wasted to those in need: underpriviledged families, elderly or homeless people, veterans. „Our staff come to work each day with the mission of providing food for hungry people while striving to end hunger in our community.“, says the organisation´s website.

Founded in 1978 by a group of commited people

In the 70s the Chicago area experienced an increase of poverty which inspired the six founders Tom O’Connell, Robert W. Strube Sr., Rev. Philip Marquard, Gertrude Snodgrass, Ann Connors and Ed Sunshine to start a food bank.

Ever since its founding, the Greater Chicago Food Depository has expanded its programmes and services to meet the urgent needs of the County Cook residents. Today GCFD distributes food through a network of 700 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and community programmes. It has its own education and training programme and more than 140 employees and around 24000 volunteers.

Where does the food come from?

Every day the GCFD delivers more than 200.000 pounds of food to people in need across Chicago and Cook County. The distributed food is either donated or purchased. The donations come from farmers, restaurants, manufacturers, retail grocers or wholesalers. Even big names such as Starbucks or Tyson foods donate on a regular basis. The food is then inspected, sorted and prepared for delivery in the organisation´s warehouse by volunteers and employees.

Soup kitchens and mobile pantries

After the collection, the food is delivered in different ways to the residents. In soup kitchens people receive prepared meals while food pantries offer a variety of nutritious items including fresh produce and shelf-stable food. Even mobile food distributions happen: „The Mobile Pantry brings food to communities that have a high concentration of need but relatively low levels of pantry assistance.“, explains the website.

Healthy Student Market helps low income families

Over the years the Greater Chicago Food Depository has launched a variety of programmes to cater to all the different groups of people in need. They have a children´s and school programme, a Veteran programme and an older adult programme.
An example of the children´s programme is the Healthy Student Market at Nothwest Middle School Chicago. It is offered twice a month during the school year and it serves around 195 families. The produce tables are set up in the school´s gymnasium. One of the customers is 35-year-old medical assistant Denise Salinas. She is thankful for the possibilty to gather healthy food for a reasonable price. “This helps put food on the table for my boy,” says Salinas. “It’s definitely a big help.”
A recent programme that started in 2017 is called „Rise and Shine Illinois“. It provides school children with the most important meal: a healthy breakfast.

Job training as part of the mission

To fulfill its mission of ending hunger, the organisation goes one step further than just distributing: it also provides job training for unemployed and underemployed people in Cook County. The Chicago Community Kitchens offer a 14 week culinary programme at no cost for the students. Since 1998 more than 1300 students have graduated and now work in some of Chicago´s leading professional kitchens. Thus the Greater Chicago Food Depository helps in a total different way to fight hunger: by giving people hope, a perspective and the skills to earn their livelihood by themselves.

To learn more about the Greater Chicago Food Depository please visit their website:
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Another great charity organization, which helps children and gives them a future!

Vision8 Child Care Foundation: Help for children in need

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