Imagine living a life that requires you to choose between food and utilities, food and medical care, food and housing, food and transportation, or even food and education.
Forty-nine million people in the U.S. struggle to put food on the table, with one in nine on Chicago’s North Side suffering from food insecurity — a lack of access to enough food for all household members.
Access to wholesome food requires that it be physically present in the local food system; when healthy, affordable food is scarce, that area is considered a “food desert.” Former First Lady Michelle Obama launched the Let’s Move! campaign in 2010 to combat obesity for a healthier generation of kids. Subsequently, the Obama administration launched the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, a partnership between the U.S. Departments of Treasury, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services to financially support local food suppliers in underserved communities. The Food Desert Locator tool was created as part of the initiative.
Research from Feeding America’s study Food Banks: Hunger’s New Staple suggests a shift in reliance on food banks and pantries. Families are not only visiting them as a source of emergency food to meet temporary and critical food needs, but are also turning to food banks and pantries for their long-term food strategy. Senior citizens, who often experience limitations due to a fixed or lack of income, are one of the most active clients in pantries.
Chicagoland is supported by an extensive assortment of food assistance services, including nonprofit organizations, free groceries, government programs such as SNAP, food banks and pantries, soup kitchens, mobile food distribution, delivery services, and shelters. One of the city’s largest and longest-standing pantries, Lakeview Pantry, has provided 1.6 million pounds of food to its clients since opening its doors in 1970. Through a multitude of services and self-help initiatives, Lakeview Pantry aims to eradicate hunger and poverty, while working to increase the independence of its clients and cater to the specific physical limitations that may inhibit an individual from receiving proper nutrition.
On Sept. 20, Lakeview Pantry held its sixth annual fall fundraiser, Fighting Hunger — Feeding Hope, in support of its hunger relief programs. Since its inception, the pantry has raised a cumulative total of $725,000. The funds have yielded more than 5 million meals to low-income residents suffering from food insecurity.
Hosted at Stratford on the Park, the sold-out event featured a lineup of celebrity chefs, including Jason Vincent of Giant, Matt Ayala of Cochon Volant, Ryan Bair of Ada Street, Nelli Maltezos of Mon Ami Gabi, Naoki Nakashima of Naoki Sushi, and Corey Fuller of Stratford on the Park. Guests enjoyed a cocktail hour with chef demonstrations and hors d’oeuvres, followed by a seated dinner, auction, and formal program highlighting the work of the pantry. The Partner of the Year award was presented to Conagra Brands for its dedication to hunger relief efforts in Chicago.