Facility expansion and program growth aims to increase the availability of nutritious prepared meals for people at increased risk of hungerThe Greater Chicago Food Depository revealed its updated timeline to begin construction on an exciting new meal preparation kitchen this summer. Plans to break ground on the 36,700-square-foot facility expansion were paused in 2020 as the Food Depository’s focus shifted to pandemic response. The $53 million project includes the construction of a new commercial meal preparation kitchen and nutrition education center, an expansion of the Food Depository’s prepared meals programs and more parking for its volunteers, guests, and fleet of delivery trucks. The meal-prep kitchen will be built to the immediate west of the nonprofit’s existing warehouse and offices in Archer Heights on Chicago’s Southwest Side and is anticipated to be fully operational in late 2023.
“We are very excited to move forward with this transformative project,” said Kate Maehr, Greater Chicago Food Depository executive director and CEO. “We already produce 600 prepared meals a day at our current site, but the new facility is going to be a gamechanger. When fully operational, we will have the capacity to prepare and distribute 10,000 healthy, made-from-scratch meals per day, allowing us to grow our services to reach even more individuals, families, and communities across Cook County, as well as create jobs.”The nutritious, high-quality meals will be distributed to feed some of Chicago’s most at-risk populations including older adults, people with disabilities, and patients with chronic health conditions in need of medically tailored meals. Producing ready-made meals is one of the ways the Food Depository works to address the root causes of hunger. Just as the number of people experiencing food insecurity increased during the pandemic, so did demand for prepared meals. Many individuals are facing hunger because they are unable to cook for themselves or are in need of medically-tailored meals. The Food Depository’s prepared meals program will initially target serving these populations, with expansion plans to eventually include preparing and procuring meals for opportunity youth, justice involved individuals, and other groups at elevated risk of hunger. The need to assist older adults is anticipated to increase as more Baby Boomers reach retirement age, become dependent on fixed incomes, and are likely to face health challenges. The Food Depository will also be doing its part to support local, minority and women-owned businesses and organizations by investing directly in historically marginalized communities impacted by generations of systemic inequities. Where possible, ingredients to make the meals, as well as additional prepared meals, will come from local Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)-led providers and community-based organizations to help create jobs, training, and economic opportunity in priority communities. The Plan to build the meal preparation facility was first announced in 2019 and marks Phase II of the Food Depository’s Nourish Project. The project addresses the root causes of hunger by increasing the availability of healthy food in high-need areas and striving to create equitable communities. Phase I was completed in 2019 and involved upgrades to the Food Depository’s warehouse, including an expansion of cold storage, renovations to the shipping area, and new spaces for its volunteer program. The upgrades have proved crucial during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as demand for food assistance soared to record levels. In response to the crisis, the Food Depository distributed record quantities of food in its 43-year history while continuing to engage 11,000 annual volunteers. Read more about the Nourish Project. Media contact: Man-Yee Lee, [email protected], 773-843-5498