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Neighbors Caring for Neighbors in a South Side Community

A gentleman helping sort vegetables at the First Presbyterian Kimbark's Free Food Market.

First Presbyterian Kimbark’s Free Food Market has long been a source of hope for Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood.

And volunteer Luis Gomez is a familiar face to the long line of families and older adults who are there to receive free, nutritious produce, meat and shelf-stable goods once a week.

“This place represents my hopes and dreams for helping others . . .”

Luis always has a smile for the children because he remembers keenly how hunger was a constant worry for him, his three siblings and their single mother when he was young. The family made meals of whatever they could get their hands on. Often, it was hot peppers with bread; another time, it was only raw onions.

“My mom would ask our neighbors for food, but they didn’t have any either,” Luis says. “Going without food built up anxiety in my heart and soul.”

Gail Robinson, the pantry coordinator, calls Luis an unsung hero and says he is a key reason their Free Food Market is able to serve about 130 families each week. He’s there every Wednesday for set-up and every Thursday to distribute food, helping protect his neighbors from the tough realities of hunger.

“This place represents my hopes and dreams for helping others,” Luis says. “This place is my heart.”

Higher Food Costs, Fewer Grocery Dollars

Food costs remain high across Cook County, and the recent reduction in Federal emergency supplemental SNAP benefits instituted during the pandemic sent many neighbors into crisis.

Tim, 59, has significant health issues after surviving a car accident and a heart attack. He used to receive $260 a month in SNAP benefits, but he’s now facing the hard reality of receiving only $60 each month.

A neighbor told Tim he could get help at First Presbyterian Kimbark’s Free Food Market years ago, and it often helped supplement his grocery budget. But these days, he is relying almost solely on the food pantry for the food he needs to survive.

Carolyn, a former preschool teacher, who frequents the Free Food Market.

“They show us love here . . .”

Carolyn also feels the impact of the drop in benefits and high food costs. After her grocery budget nearly doubled, she had to stop eating some of her favorite staple items.

A former preschool teacher, Carolyn now lives in a building for those with physical challenges. She turns to the Free Food Market for help when she needs it and is always encouraged by the kindness of the pantry staff and volunteers like Genora Stone.

“No one wants to come to a pantry, but you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do,” Carolyn says. “They really show us love here. This place means survival.”

Thank you for supporting your community through the Food Depository! Your compassion and generosity help ensure our partner pantries on the South Side and across Cook County are well stocked and ready to serve all who come to them for food.

This tremendous impact is what you are so much a part of.

Matching Challenge DOUBLES Your Summer Impact!

Right now, there’s an incredible opportunity to help even more—turning hunger into hope! Your gift today will double in impact through the $50,000 matching challenge.