Skip to Main Content
Hunger Beat

South-side Boys and Girls Club provides children with the nourishment they need to thrive

Susan Rizo is an 11-year-old fifth grader who loves to read, cook, go on field trips to the zoo, and work at the library. She credits these interests, in large part, to Club One, the original Union League Boys and Girls Club of Chicago, where she has been going for activities and a meal nearly every day after school for the past four years.

“I love it here,” she says. “On the days that I come here, I’m really happy, because I get to see my friends and participate in activities.”

Club One, located in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, has been serving the Pilsen community since 1919.  At Club One, kids like Susan can play sports, participate in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs, learn about nutrition, spend time with peers and, perhaps most importantly, receive a meal that they might not receive at home.

A woman serves a girl food.

Naomi Hernandez receives her daily meal from Club One.

Always Enough

In partnership with the Food Depository, Club One provides nearly 200 children ages 5-18 with a daily, nutritious meal every time they visit. “We see the need,” says program director Anabel Hernandez. “We always try to prioritize food security because that’s something that is never set in stone for any of our families.”

“We always have to keep in mind that the children and the families we serve do predominantly come from low-income households,” says Hernandez.

“For some of these kids, this might be the only vegetable they get all day. It’s not uncommon for kids to come up for seconds or even thirds. We’re grateful that the Food Depository provides enough food so that we always have enough to feed our kids.”

A girl in glasses stands in front of a door.

Johana Rodriguez loves coming to Club One after school every day.

For Johana Rodriguez, 9, some of the foods she eats at Club One serve as a reminder of home. Johana immigrated from Honduras to Chicago last year. She’s still getting used to the cold, but the food she receives at Club One is helping her acclimate.

“I love the turkey because they make it so delicious,” says Johana. “It feels like I’m in Honduras, because it tastes just like the turkey I ate there, in my home.”

Consistent Healthy Meals

The staff at Club One also appreciate the Food Depository for providing foods that are different from what the kids might be used to. “They all love when they get foods like pozole, pineapple, and cooked turkey,” says Hernandez. “To them, it’s something special and different.” She appreciates both the variety and the nutritional value of the food they receive from the Food Depository. “They’re very mindful of what’s made and with what ingredients.”

A girl sits a table drinking milk.

Payton Reed enjoys a carton of milk at snack time.

Both Susan and Johana, along with most of the children who attend Club One, engage with the program almost every day. They refer to themselves as 'Club Kids,' or kids who have grown up at Club One. Many of them start attending Club One for the first time when they are as young as 5 years old and continue until high school.

Members of Club One see it as a community—a second home. For this reason, Hernandez says, consistency and reliability are important.

“The fact that we have consistent healthy meals (from the Food Depository) for all our program dates means so much because it helps us create a sustainable structure," says Hernandez.

Two girls sit together at a table.

Sisters Elizabeth and Naomi sit to eat a meal together at Club One.

"We can do more for the kids because we don’t have to worry about where their food is going to come from. It is a huge help. Because of the Food Depository, we can spend our time doing things like leading programs and creating relationships with the kids. We are very grateful.”

We wouldn’t be able to support programs like Club One and help feed children like Susan and Johana without the help of our supporters. Learn more about how you can donate to make an impact.

Share This Post

More Recent Stories