Rev. Sandra Gillespie and Rev. Harriette Cross exchange ideas at
the Food Depository’s On the Table dinner.

How do we end hunger in Cook County? That was the question posed Monday evening as the Greater Chicago Food Depository brought together 30 anti-hunger advocates as part of The Chicago Community Trust’s On the Table event.

All across Chicago, more than 10,000 people of all ages, from all walks of life gathered at tables on May 12 to share meals and discuss how to collaboratively build and maintain strong, safe and dynamic communities. The meals were held in honor of the Trust’s 99th anniversary. The Food Depository used the occasion to gather its champion advocates – many of whom recently traveled to Springfield for Lobby Day – for a conversation on how to build a hunger-free Chicago.

Dinner was prepared by Chicago’s Community Kitchens, the Food Depository’s 14-week workforce development program that equips unemployed and underemployed adults with foodservice job training.

Throughout the meal, advocates wrote ideas on cards so their thoughts can be shared with the Chicago Community Trust and Food Depository stakeholders. The Food Depository will continue its work with champion advocates and member agencies to turn these ideas into action. These are some of their thoughts:

Anti-hunger advocates wrote down their ideas for ending hunger in Cook County.
  • We need to lift our voice – more collective outrage. We are the greatest city in the greatest country in the world. No one should go hungry – ever. And yet, so many people are struggling. We need to tell the story, give voice – fight for change.
  • We must tell the stories of people who are hungry. We must empower people to be part of a movement.
  • Sharing knowledge and being strategic with our shared knowledge. Networking. We cannot solve this crisis on our own. We need to create strategic, collaborative, creative partnerships that last. And let’s work ourselves out of a job!
  • Let Chicago know the problem exists. Activate social media campaign – use every outlet possible. Elevate Hunger Action Month. Make hunger a 12 month initiative to promote. Advocate, advocate, advocate.
  • Educate. In this room we know people are going hungry. Many people throughout Illinois do not see or want to see hunger. We have to work to make people know hunger exists everywhere, it could be your neighbor. Once we have awareness and everyone owns this issue, we can move mountains and end hunger.
  • Every American age 3-100 can articulate “no one in this country, state, city, neighborhood should be hungry.” All stakeholders need to do their part. Neighbors, politicians, schools, businesses, churches, financial institutions and government. 
  • Plant more community gardens in empty lots.
  • End waste. 40% of food is wasted. End waste, end hunger. Humanize the issue. Cooking/nutrition education. Robust safety net, economic development.
  • Change the meaning of food.
  • Admit and confess that hunger exists. Many times it is your next door neighbor. We should be more concerned about others even if it means going door to door asking if they are in need.
  • Awareness. Understanding how close we all are to this problem. And understanding all of the related problems that exist as a result of food insecurity.
  • Supply a list of local food pantries and soup kitchens at each school. Teachers have a feel and often communicate with children and know who is not eating.
  • Plant a seed. Educate children how to grow food so they gain more respect for food and its value.
  • Make mealtimes an integral part of school curriculum, where children never take healthy meals for granted.