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Greater Chicago Food Depository

A distribution trial run by the Greater Chicago Food Depository on Friday at Trinity United Church of Christ in Washington Heights

Greg Trotter

Chicago Food Bank Expands Operations To Areas Hit Hardest By COVID-19: South And West Sides

Chicago’s largest food bank is expanding with pop-ups on the South and West Sides — areas hit hardest by COVID-19.

Starting Monday the Greater Chicago Food Depository is partnering with seven black and Latino community groups. From Fuller Park to Humboldt Park, over the next five weeks, the distribution sites will serve up to 1,000 households.

“These pop-up markets are a rapid response to the newly furloughed, newly unemployed individuals who may not be connected to a traditional pantry network,” said Nicole Robinson, vice president of community impact for GCDF.

The free food boxes, weighing between 20 and 30 pounds, will have fresh produce, meat and non-perishable items.

GCDF did already provide food in black and brown communities but realized a more targeted response is needed in areas disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus. The food bank connected with trusted community organizations that will lead the outdoor distribution sites: Apostolic Church of God (and the Network of Woodlawn), Greater Auburn-Gresham Community Development Corporation, Austin Coming Together, Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, New Life Centers of Chicagoland, South Shore Works and Trinity United Church of Christ.

“Before COVID-19 they [these communities] had been dealing with poverty, unemployment, health disparities — and that gap has just gotten wider and deeper,” Robinson said. “All of the neighborhoods that are a part of this response already had levels of food insecurity in the range of 30 to 50%.”

Three of the communities — Austin, Auburn Greshman and South Shore — are part of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Racial Equity Rapid Response Team addressing the racial inequities of COVID-19. In Chicago, black residents account for 60% of deaths from the virus. Four majority Latino ZIP codes — three in Chicago and one in north suburban Waukegan — have amassed the state’s highest numbers of COVID-19 cases, according to a WBEZ analysis of Illinois Department of Public Health data.

Monica Moss, of Trinity United Church of Christ in Washington Heights and a GCFD board member, said the church wanted to do something since in-person Sunday services are suspended because of the coronavirus.

“We needed to be able to continue to be a source of hope and continuity and strength in a different way for the community,” Moss said.

The church did a trial run last week as a pickup site.

“We gave out 500 boxes. We will double that this week,” said Moss, adding that they ran out of food.

Moss said a homeless man showed up and was asked what he needed. His response surprised everyone.

“He said, ‘no, I don’t want to take a box of food but what I do want you to do is take this dollar from me,’” Moss said.

He gave the money and said he wanted to help someone else who needed it.

Natalie Moore is a reporter on WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. You can follow her on Twitter at @natalieymoore.

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