From the Wires
Food Depository Steps Up Holiday Food Distributions to Respond to Rising Demand
Nov. 24, 2008 09:30 AM
Pantry demand has risen by 33 percent since last year; Harsh economy drives many to seek food assistance for first time
CHICAGO, Nov. 24 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Greater Chicago Food Depository announced today six additional Thanksgiving week distributions in response to unprecedented demand at Cook County pantries. The Food Depository's Producemobiles will deliver an additional 24,000 pounds of holiday food to the West Side, South Side and South Suburbs on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday -- an increase of 40 percent in the total Producemobile pounds planned for the week. The distributions follow the release last week of a survey that found 33 percent more individuals and families have turned to a pantry for food assistance than a year ago.
"These are extraordinary economic times," said Kate Maehr, executive director of the Greater Chicago Food Depository. "This action will ensure that thousands have food for Thanksgiving while relieving some of the strain at pantries."
The Food Depository's two Producemobiles distribute 20,000 pounds of food to low-income areas every weekday. The additional distributions this week include ingredients for 400 holiday meals as well as an assortment of fruits and vegetables.
According to the survey released Nov. 19, of the pantries seeing increased demand, 84 percent attributed the rise to legions of newly unemployed, and nearly 88 percent said that their clients are seeking food assistance for the first time. Since the survey was conducted, between July and September, agencies report that demand continues at unprecedented levels. Suburban pantries, especially, have been struck by higher demand. Pantries from Hoffman Estates to Oak Park to Chicago Heights report increases of 50 to 90 percent in the number of visits over last year.
"We've seen more desperation from the people we serve," said Kathy Russell, coordinator of Oak Park River Forest Pantry.
Most pantries are drawing upon expanded offerings of food and services from the Greater Chicago Food Depository, according to the survey. But, the sheer levels of demand are forcing some to distribute smaller bags of food and limit hours of operation. The Food Depository is responding to the demand with stepped up supplies of food and an innovative array of programs and services:
- A three-year, $850,000 grant from the Goodman Supporting Foundation will fund new start-up pantries, programs and staffing in the 10 neighborhoods identified in the food bank's strategic plan with the highest levels of poverty and least access to emergency and supplemental food.
- The Food Stamp Outreach Program began signing up eligible individuals at pantries in 2008. More than 400 individuals have been signed up since the start of the program.
- Chicago's Community Kitchens, the Food Depository's culinary training program for underemployed and unemployed adults, plans to serve more people and produce more meals for after-school Kids Cafes.
- In 10 areas of priority need, the Food Depository is increasing staffing and resources to build partnerships with other social services agencies and refer people to vocational and health services.
The Mobile Pantry program makes food available on nights and weekends in order to serve the working poor.
ABOUT THE GREATER CHICAGO FOOD DEPOSITORY
The Greater Chicago Food Depository, Chicago's food bank, is a nonprofit food distribution and training center providing food for hungry people while striving to end hunger in our community. The Food Depository distributes donated and purchased food through a network of 600 pantries, soup kitchens and shelters to 500,000 adults and children in Cook County every year. Last year, the Food Depository distributed 46 million pounds of nonperishable food and fresh produce, dairy products and meat, the equivalent of 95,000 meals every day. The Food Depository's programs and services for children, older adults and the unemployed and underemployed address the root causes of hunger. For more information, log onto www.chicagosfoodbank.org or call 773-247-FOOD.
SOURCE Greater Chicago Food Depository