The Greater Chicago Food Depository, Chicago's food bank, is a nonprofit food distribution and training center providing food for hungry people while striving to end hunger in our community. The Food Depository makes a daily impact across Cook County with a network of 700 pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, mobile programs, children's programs, older adult programs and innovative responses that address the root causes of hunger. In fiscal year 2015 – 2016, the Food Depository distributed 70 million pounds of shelf-stable food, fresh produce, dairy products and meat, the equivalent of 160,000 meals every day.
Cook County, Illinois
Ms. Kate Maehr
hunger, food bank, food depository, poverty, Chicago, Illinois, volunteer, donate, food drive
Also Known As
4100 W Ann Lurie Pl
Chicago, IL 60632 USA
Food Banks, Food Pantries (K31)
Emergency Assistance (Food, Clothing, Cash) (P60)
IRS Filing Requirement
This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.
How does this organization make a difference?
Self-reported by organization
What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?
Our Partner Agencies
The Food Depository distributes donated and purchased produce, protein, dairy and shelf-stable food – nearly 200,000 pounds each day – to a network of pantries, soup kitchens and shelters throughout Cook County. With the Food Depository’s support, these dedicated partner agencies provide food for thousands of hungry individuals and families each day.
While this partner agency network provides the core of the Food Depository’s response to hunger, the organization also operates programs that address specific areas of need. Some of those initiatives are highlighted below.
In Cook County, nearly 230,000 children are at risk of hunger. The Food Depository operates a number of programs that help ensure children throughout our community have the nutritious food they need to grow up healthy and succeed in school.
Kids Cafes, a national initiative of Feeding America administered locally by the Food Depository, are after-school programs that provide healthy meals in a safe, nurturing environment. The Food Depository operates 60 Kids Cafes locations throughout Cook County. In fiscal year 2016, children received 349,000 meals from Kids Cafes.
Healthy Kids Markets are market-style food distributions inside of Chicago Public Schools. The programs provide nutritious food, including produce, protein, dairy and shelf-stable groceries, to students and families who may not be able to visit a traditional food pantry due to work hours or location.
Summer meal programs help fill the gap for children when they’re no longer receiving free and reduced-price meals at school. The Food Depository’s Lunch Bus distributed meals at 24 different stops throughout Cook County each weekday in summer 2016. In addition to the Lunch Bus, the Food Depository partnered with nearly 200 meal sites, including public libraries, community centers, summer camps to distribute more than 560,000 meals.
Program long term success: Through its children’s programs, the Food Depository strives to ensure that kids in our community have access to the food they need year-round.
Every weekday, a brightly-colored sprinter van rolls up to the Belmont Cragin Library just after noon. And every day, Francisco Pacheco quietly breathes a sigh of relief as he sees the van come around the corner.
“With only one full paycheck it’s not enough to keep our fridge full during the summer,” he says. “The Lunch Bus helps feed my kids.”
Francisco has three children, including a 3-year-old daughter, Alexandra. They each receive free meals during the summer from the Lunch Bus.
“Because my children are getting food at the Lunch Bus, it helps me save for bus fare so I can take Alexandra to the doctor,” Francisco said.
Francisco works part-time and his wife is working full-time at a bowling alley, but during the summer their small income isn’t enough to afford food for their three children.
“It’s hard, but all the little things make a difference,” Francisco said.
The Producemobile, launched in 2001, distributes fresh fruit and vegetables each weekday in areas where produce availability is limited or the infrastructure doesn’t exist to operate a traditional food pantry. Each month, the Producemobile visits approximately 50 locations throughout Cook County.
In addition, the Mobile Pantry distributes fresh and shelf-stable food to 21 sites each month. The program aims to serve working people by distributing food on nights and weekends – when food assistance programs are less available.
Program long term success: The Food Depository’s mobile programs will continue to ensure as many hungry people in Cook County have access to food by providing fresh produce, protein and shelf-stable items in communities that have less access to traditional hunger-relief programs.
Steve Polzak, 58, grasped the handle of a rolling cooler with one hand, and his cane in the other. It was a radiant, clear afternoon in South Suburban Sauk Village, and Steve was visiting a Greater Chicago Food Depository Mobile Pantry at Emmanuel Church.
Steve was receiving fresh carrots, potatoes, onions, collard greens and bread at the distribution. He and his wife go to the distribution every few months, since times got tough.
“I didn’t have any breakfast today because we just didn’t have any food,” Steve said. “This helps tremendously.”
Steve got into a car accident about 10 years ago and severely injured his back. He had to go on permanent disability and was no longer able to work in his job at a warehouse. Since the accident, paying for related medical issues has drained his family’s savings account.
“The only thing I’ve eaten recently was a scrambled egg sandwich,” Steve said. “That’s holding up right now pretty well but if it weren’t for this I’m not sure what we’d be doing.”
Programs for Veterans
Too many men and women who have served our country are at risk of hunger. In Cook County, more than 13,000 veterans live at or below the poverty line. And, nearly 18 percent of households receiving food from the Food Depository’s network include a retired member of the U.S. Armed Services.
To address this need, the Food Depository opened one of the nation’s first food pantries inside a VA facility in November 2013. The pantry, at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago, serves approximately 150 veteran households each week. The following year, a second veteran food pantry was opened, at the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Medical Center in the western suburbs of Chicago. Combined, the two pantries served nearly 14,300 households in fiscal year 2016.
The Food Depository also participates in Stand Downs – semi-annual resource fairs for homeless veterans. At the events, the Food Depository provides a hot meal and take-away bag of food. Veterans also receive medical and dental assistance, clothing and more.
Finally, the Food Depository is dedicated to connecting veterans with federal safety net resources such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). To that end, Food Depository staff works with veterans at the Stand Downs and pantries to answer their questions about – and help them apply for – the SNAP program. In fiscal year 2015 – 2016, staff assisted more than 400 veterans with SNAP applications.
James Poggi served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2008 – 2012. After complications from a service injury caused him to lose the ability to walk, he struggled to support his wife and two children.
Unable to work, he is on disability and his wife takes care of him full time. In order to make ends meet, the family visits the Hines VA food pantry once a month.
“The pantry helps us fill the gap at the end of the month,” James said. “We’re so happy when we come to the VA for an appointment and it’s also a pantry day.”
Chicago's Community Kitchens
Founded in 1998, Chicago’s Community Kitchens is a 14-week program for unemployed and underemployed adults in Cook County that prepares students for a productive career in foodservice. The program, located at the Food Depository’s state-of-the-art industrial kitchen, prepares students to break their personal cycles of poverty through workforce training providing them with a solid foundation in food preparation. While training for their future, students gain hands-on experience in a variety of culinary techniques. Chicago’s Community Kitchens provides job placement assistance following completion of the program.
Before applying to Chicago’s Community Kitchens, Corry Simmons would be the first to admit that his life was not in a good place.
“If I hadn’t found the program, I don’t know where I’d be. Maybe on the street,” he acknowledges.
Corry had been in and out of jail. He was unemployed and having trouble supporting himself and his daughter. But he decided to make a change in his life – and Chicago’s Community Kitchens enabled him to do that.
“No one would give me a chance because of my background,” Corry said. “But Chicago’s Community Kitchens did and it changed my life.”
After graduating, he got a job in a restaurant on the Near West Side. Now working 30 hours per week, he’s able to make ends meet and support his daughter.
“I’m really proud of how far I’ve come,” Corry said. “The program helped me find a career doing something I love and helped me turn my life around.”
Consistent access to nutritious food and one’s overall health are closely related and those who struggle with hunger are often plagued with health issues. In fact, 60 percent of households receiving food through the Food Depository’s network include someone who has high blood pressure. And, more than one-third of client households include someone with diabetes.
The Food Depository works with the Cook County Health & Hospitals System (CCHHS) and ACCESS Community Health Network to identify food insecure patients and refer them to resources for nutritious food. As part of this effort, the Food Depository deploys the FRESH Truck – a walk-through produce market – to many health clinics participating in the food insecurity screening throughout Cook County. Patients who have been identified as food insecure are eligible to receive produce. Currently, the FRESH Truck stops at 12 clinics, with the addition of more distributions expected in the future.
Rosa and her 5-year-old daughter step out of the blistering February cold and into a truck overflowing with produce. They’re at a Greater Chicago Food Depository FRESH Truck distribution in Logan Square.
“I want my kids to be healthy. I don’t want them to go hungry,” she said.
Rosa was screened for food insecurity at a nearby Cook County Health and Hospitals System clinic and was referred to the FRESH Truck. Her husband works but the family still struggles and can’t afford the nutritious food they need to stay healthy.
“Towards the end of the month, there’s so little money left for healthy food. We wouldn’t be able to afford the fruit and vegetables we’re getting today,” she said.
Cook County, Illinois
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Ms. Kate Maehr
As Executive Director and CEO, Kate Maehr leads the Greater Chicago Food Depository in its mission of providing food for hungry people while striving to end hunger in our community. Since accepting this role in 2006, Kate has guided a number of strategic initiatives and accomplishments to distribute nutritious food across Cook County while addressing the root causes of hunger.
Under Kate's leadership, the Food Depository has vastly expanded operations and distribution to meet rising demand. As need grew following the Great Recession, the Food Depository increased its food distribution by more than 20 million pounds while developing new programs to better serve priority populations.
Kate's vision for the organization led to the development and implementation of a five-year strategic plan – Growing the Field – that launched in 2010 and concluded in June 2015. Notable accomplishments under this plan included the expansion of fresh produce distribution to 36 percent of all food, stronger community-based responses to hunger, increased public action against hunger, new outcome measurements and investments in the organization's infrastructure. The Food Depository's new strategic plan builds upon this progress with the goals of food, community and voice.
Kate has overseen the creation and growth of several innovative programs. In 2007, the Mobile Pantry program was launched to distribute fresh and shelf-stable food to communities with high need and limited local resources. In 2009, the Food Depository began offering SNAP Outreach services to help families and individuals apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – formerly known as Food Stamps. In 2010, the Food Depository launched its Lunch Bus program to deliver nutritious lunches to children during the summer months. In 2013, the Food Depository partnered with Jesse Brown VA Medical Center to open one of the nation's first food pantries in a VA hospital. This program model was replicated in 2014 at Hines VA Hospital. Most recently, a partnership was developed with a local community health network to connect food insecure patients with nutritious food resources.
A leading voice in the fight to end hunger, Kate is co-chair of the Illinois Commission to End Hunger, a board member of Feeding Illinois – the state's coalition of food banks – and a member of the State of Illinois Social Services Advisory Council. Kate is also a member of the Economic Club of Chicago and The Chicago Network. She has been called to testify before Congress and the Illinois General Assembly. In 2013, Feeding America presented Kate with the Dick Goebel Public Service Award, which is given annually to one individual in the national network of food banks.
Kate holds a bachelor's degree from Macalester College and a master's degree in Public Policy and Administration from the University of Wisconsin. She received honorary degrees from Knox College in 2011 and DePaul University in 2015.
Peter G. Johnson
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