When Peg Veach’s mom passed away in 1998, one of her friends made a donation to the Greater Chicago Food Depository in her mother’s honor. Veach was struck by the thoughtful gift, not knowing how pivotal the gesture would become in her own life.
“I thought it was really kind,” Veach said of the donation. Her mother had been ill for some time and not eating much in her final weeks. A gift to ensure that others had food felt meaningful. It also prompted Veach, now 72, to find out more about the organization.
But tending to details in the wake of her mother’s death, and caring for her father, who had Parkinson’s Disease, demanded her attention.
Empty Shelves, Full Carts
Two years later, when Veach moved to a new home, she was delighted to learn that her downstairs neighbor worked at the Food Depository. He offered to give her a tour of the facility, and when she took him up on it, she was impressed by our mission to end hunger in Cook County.
She was also impressed by the size of the warehouse. “I could hardly believe all the shelves,” Veach said. “Sadly, many of them were empty. Our tour was during a particularly worrisome time. The Food Depository was hoping the Farm Bill would be passed, which would help a lot toward restocking the shelves.” When that happened, she wanted to be there to help.
“Anything to do with food interests me,” said Veach, who went to culinary school in her fifties, taking a brief break from her career in copyediting. Ensuring that all communities have access to food took it to a new level for Veach.
Before long she was volunteering at repack events, putting bulk foods into family-sized packaging for distribution to Food Depository partner food pantries. She also volunteered with the Fresh Trucks, preparing produce for distribution at local health centers and sometimes riding along to help guests make their food selections.
One of her most fulfilling experiences was helping with food rescue. In 2016, on the last day of the National Restaurant Association Expo, Veach joined a team of volunteers who circulated the McCormick Place venue with grocery carts retrieving surplus food from cooking demonstrations and food samples.
“There was so much food, and it was so much work,” she said. “But it was incredibly rewarding.”
Veach really found her niche when she started volunteering to field phone calls to the Food Depository. When people call asking for assistance with finding food, she helps them locate their nearest food pantry.
“(From) the appreciation they express, you can tell they instantly feel better. We’re helping with an immediate need,” Veach said. “It appalls me that millions of people are food insecure in this country.”
“Food is a basic human need and yet so many go without it or struggle to gain access to it. Anything I can do to help gives me a sense of purpose.”
A self-professed introvert, Veach was a bit worried at first about taking calls. Now it’s her favorite volunteer activity at the Food Depository.
“Our slogan, From Hungry to Hopeful, is so powerful and true,” Veach said. “You can tell so many callers are filled with relief once they know where they can go for help.”
In the past seven years, Veach has volunteered more than 1,300 hours with the Food Depository, a journey that started with a gift more meaningful than she first realized. “Being able to give someone hope,” she said of her volunteer work, “that’s huge to me.”
Volunteers like Veach are invaluable in our mission to end hunger. Join our volunteer community and make a difference for our neighbors throughout Cook County.