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Food Depository announces $2.6 million in grants to expand food access

The equity grants will support opening four new food pantries in high-priority communities and improvements to 22 existing pantries, strengthening the emergency food system in Black and Latino communities.

The Greater Chicago Food Depository is proud to announce more than $2.6 million in new grants designed to bolster the emergency food system in communities beset by racial disparities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

Driven by the Food Depository’s commitment to racial equity, the 26 grants will expand food access, primarily in lower-income Black and Latino communities on Chicago’s South and West Sides. Four new food pantries – modern and welcoming spaces for families to find nourishment – will open as a direct result of this investment. Each will serve as a community hub, connecting people to public benefits, nutrition education and employment training opportunities.

An additional 22 existing food pantries received transformative grants to improve facilities, expand operations and, ultimately, serve more people. In the Chicago area, and in urban areas across the country, Black and Latino communities are disproportionately affected by food insecurity because of years of racial disparities.

“As a food justice organization, we’re committed to investing in our community partners to provide food and hope for anyone in need,” said Kate Maehr, the Food Depository’s executive director and CEO. “We must work together to build a more equitable and just food system that works for all.”

In total, the Food Depository has announced nearly $5 million in grants since the start of the pandemic – part of its overall response to the ongoing crisis. Additional investments will be coming in the year ahead, particularly in communities of color.

This latest round of grants, most of which was distributed in December, represents a mix of philanthropic support from the Food Depository’s generous donors, and federal funding allocated through the Illinois Department of Human Services. In recent months, the Food Depository's response to priority communities has also been supported with funding and guidance from the City of Chicago and Cook County.

The Food Depository contracted with Vega Partners, a Black-owned and Chicago-based consulting collective, to facilitate the grant proposal process.

To further support the opening of the new pantries, including real estate and technical assistance, the Food Depository is partnering with IFF, a mission-driven real estate consultant and developer based in Chicago.

The capacity-building grants for existing partners will help fund a variety of facility and operational improvements, such as additional cold storage, delivery equipment and staffing needs.

The Food Depository will not be disclosing exact grant amounts for each partner. The four new pantry partners are the American Association of Single Parents, Endeleo Institute, the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) and New Life Centers of Chicagoland.

“This is a hope and dream I’ve had for some time now – to be able to create this space for people,” said Nicole Scott, CEO of the American Association of Single Parents. “I truly believe lives will be changed.”

This latest round of funding follows $2.3 million in emergency grants allocated over the summer. The Food Depository’s response to the pandemic has focused on strengthening its network of partners, including distributing emergency food boxes, launching pop-up food distributions and providing all food at no cost to partners.

Prior to both the pandemic and the racial justice reckoning, the Food Depository was already advancing racial equity as a core value of the organization. We are committed to addressing the root causes of food insecurity, including systemic racism. No one should go hungry.

The list of grant recipients and communities are as follows:

New Pantries

  • Endeleo Institute – Washington Heights/Roseland
  • Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) – Englewood/Chicago Lawn
  • New Life Centers of Chicagoland – South Lawndale
  • American Association for Single Parents – Dolton/Calumet City

Transformative Grants for Existing Partners

  • Circle Urban Ministries – Austin
  • Hope Food Pantry – Austin
  • Iglesia Evangelica Emanuel – Belmont Cragin
  • Respond Now – Chicago Heights
  • Church on Fire International – Cicero
  • Chicago Lawn United Methodist Church Jesus Christ Food Pantry – Chicago Lawn
  • The Salvation Army: Englewood Red Shield Center – Englewood
  • Shepherd’s Hope – Englewood
  • Chosen Tabernacle Ministries – Grand Boulevard
  • Columbanus Church – Greater Grand Crossing
  • Thornton Township Pantry – Harvey (Dolton location)
  • Restoration Ministries – Harvey
  • Pilsen Wellness Center – Lower West (and Brighton Park and South Lawndale)
  • Pilsen Food Pantry – Lower West (and South Lawndale)
  • Lighthouse of Hope – Melrose Park
  • Hattie B. Williams Food Pantry – Oak Forest
  • Beyond Hunger – Austin location
  • Howard Area Community Center – Rogers Park
  • Care for Real – Rogers Park
  • Sheldon Heights Food Pantry – Roseland
  • Windsor Park Lutheran Church – South Shore
  • Grace Central Outreach – Westchester (and Maywood)

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