In Black and Brown communities on Chicago’s South and West Sides, the Greater Chicago Food Depository has partnered with faith and community groups to feed thousands of families each week.Our partners have done extraordinary work to meet the rising need for food assistance during the coronavirus pandemic. During an ongoing crisis with so few silver linings, their unflagging compassion and hard work gives us hope for a brighter future. Here are some glimpses from the new “pop-up” food distributions, part of the Food Depository’s broader response to the pandemic. All photos were taken by Joshua Lott for the Food Depository.
A volunteer at the Apostolic Church of God in Woodlawn – one of more than 100 volunteers who help each week – gestures for cars to move forward during the weekly food “pop-up” food distribution.
In Chicago, Black and Brown communities on the South and West Sides have been the hardest hit by the virus and by rising food insecurity.
“It’s more than a notion, I’ll tell you that,” said Cynthia Nobles of the virus. Nobles, pictured here with her grandson, said that both her brother and cousin died from COVID-19.
Young men volunteering in Auburn Gresham carry boxes of fresh produce, meat and nonperishable food to a car.
“Right now? I’m not,” said Gregory Dennis, when asked how he’s making ends meet. Dennis is a cook at a soul food restaurant that closed because of the pandemic.
The new pop-up partners, like the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation, are feeding people in communities that have suffered for years from disinvestment, structural racism, and as a result, high rates of food insecurity.
New Life Centers of Chicagoland, a new partner of the Food Depository, is feeding more than 5,000 families a week across seven mostly Latino immigrant communities.
“It’s been difficult because my dad hasn’t been able to work, but she’s very grateful for us receiving the food. It’s been very helpful,” said Jasmine, 13, translating for her mother, Viviana Bahena.
“It’s a real opportunity for us to walk together in this crisis and meet the need together,” said Matt DeMateo, New Life executive director (pictured here – front row, second from the left – with his team). “We’re here to meet the need for the long haul.”
“To come here, it’s been a lot for me, because I’ve been able to stretch (my funds),” said Verona Wainwright, a member of Trinity United Church of Christ who visited its pop-up food distribution in late May. “I know what it’s like to not have.”
Before COVID-19, nearly one-third of the population in the Washington Heights neighborhood was at risk of food insecurity. As those figures increase as a result of the business and school closures, pop-up distributions like the one hosted by Trinity United Church of Christ support families in need.
“It helps that I know I’ve got some food to feed my kids,” Jacquietta Jones, a 30-year-old mother of two, said of Trinity’s pop-up distribution.
In April 2020, the Food Depository’s network served 450 more individuals in the South Shore neighborhood than it had in January, before the spread of the virus. Pop-up distributions like the one hosted at The Quarry Arts & Wellness Center, run by South Shore Works and Real Men Charities, provide groceries for those in need.
A volunteer takes a breather during a busy food distribution in South Shore. Helpers packed food into cars as well as offered bags and boxes to those who came on foot.