Skip to Main Content

History of Chicago's Food Bank

Learn how the Greater Chicago Food Depository started serving food and giving hope to our Cook County neighbors.

Since 1979, the Greater Chicago Food Depository has proudly provided food for our neighbors in need across Chicago and Cook County. Over the years, we have expanded and evolved our programs and services to meet the changing needs of those we serve.

Read THE STORY OF how the Food Depository grew from grassroots

Our Notable Milestones


A group of six determined trailblazers – Tom O’Connell, Robert W. Strube, Sr., Father Philip Marquard, Gertrude Snodgrass, Ann Connor and Ed Sunshine – incorporate the first food bank in Illinois: the Greater Chicago Food Depository.


The Greater Chicago Food Depository begins distributing food at Robert Strube’s produce stall in the South Water Market.


The Food Depository moves to a new home, a 91,000-square-foot facility at 4501 South Tripp Avenue.


The Food Depository establishes a Perishable Food Program, now known as Food Rescue, with a grant from The Chicago Community Trust. Food Rescue collects unused, but edible, food from grocers for distribution to food pantries and soup kitchens.


The first Kids Cafe® begins serving after-school hot meals for low-income children. Kids Cafes partner with after-school programs to provide healthy meals and enrichment programming for children in a safe, nurturing environment.


Chicago’s Community Kitchens, a free culinary job training program for unemployed and underemployed adults, is founded. This was the first of the Food Depository’s job training programs.


The first Producemobile, a farmers’ market on wheels, begins distributing fresh produce to low-income communities.


The Food Depository opens a new 268,000-square-foot warehouse and training center that brings all programs under one roof at 4100 W. Ann Lurie Place, where the Food Depository is today. Summer meal programs begin in collaboration with schools and community organizations.


Responding to the need on nights and weekends, the Mobile Pantry Program begins operation, helping to transport food to areas where food access is limited.


Benefits Outreach services begin to assist eligible individuals in applying for federal nutrition benefits.


Children’s programs expand with Healthy Kids Markets in schools and summer Lunch Bus meal distributions at community sites.


In collaboration with the Department of Veteran Affairs and AmeriCorps, the Food Depository opens a weekly food pantry at Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, one of the nation’s first in a VA hospital.


A second weekly food pantry for veterans opens at Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital. These innovative VA food pantries were the first to be housed in Illinois VA facilities and continue to serve as a national model for other partnerships throughout the Feeding America network.


The Food Depository partners with the City College of Chicago to open food pantries on college campuses. These distributions reach the increasing number of students who are at risk of food insecurity.


Starbucks and Feeding America launch the Starbucks FoodShare program in Cook County. In an extension of Food Rescue, the Food Depository’s first overnight routes pick up unsold prepared food items from Starbucks stores and deliver them to homeless shelters.


Project Nourish Phase 1 begins, a renovation to our Archer Heights facility to address the evolving need in Chicago and Cook County. The project includes expanding cold storage space and opening a new volunteer orientation space.



The Food Depository honors 40 years of service.

In recognition of the evolution of our work, the Food Depository releases a new logo and brand to tell the story of our vision for a stronger, hunger-free community. The brand evolution expresses the entirety of our mission – to encompass all the ways we work every day to end hunger, providing food for those in need today while taking on the root causes of hunger.


The Food Depository served at the forefront of the City of Chicago’s COVID-19 emergency food response. In fiscal year 2021, we distributed more than 117 million pounds of food (or more than 97.5 million meals) – the largest amount by far in the organization’s history and an increase of more than 25 percent from the previous year.

Job training program offerings expanded with free and paid hospitality job training, providing career opportunities for individuals looking to overcome poverty and hunger.


Job training for supply chain careers is introduced, offering career development for competitive and in-demand fields.



The Nourish Project Phase 2 resumes with the construction of a new meal preparation kitchen and nutrition education center, an expansion of the Food Depository’s prepared meals programs and extended parking for its delivery trucks, volunteers and guests.

The Food Depository recommits to ending hunger in our community with a new mission statement, pledging to provide food for our neighbors in need today while taking on the root causes of hunger for tomorrow.

The Food Depository begins providing nutritious food boxes for older adults in Cook County through the Commodities Supplemental Food Program for Older Adults.


The Food Depository provides more than 20,000 culturally appropriate meals a day for asylum-seeking new arrivals staying temporarily in shelters throughout the city. Funding from the State of Illinois and private philanthropy allows us to invest in 17 minority-owned restaurants and caterers to supply many of the meals, strengthening the local economies of the historically disinvested communities in which they are located by creating economic opportunity while also meeting an urgent need for food.

Food Depository kitchen staff start preparing meals in our new facility in December for people at increased risk of hunger.

Child eating a prepacked food pantry lunch.

Support Change. End Hunger.

When you support the Food Depository, you ensure our neighbors have food for today and our community has hope for tomorrow. Whether you donate, volunteer or advocate, you are bringing us closer to achieving our mission.