Addressing hunger, promoting health

Greater Chicago Food Depository Producemobile
February 25, 2016
by Kate Maehr

On an unusually cool early fall day, a line grew in front of the Greater Chicago Food Depository’s Fresh Truck in the Back of the Yards community – a neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago with a food insecurity rate of nearly 24 percent.

The vehicle distributes fresh fruit and vegetables at health clinics throughout Cook County. On that day, clinic patients were turning in referral slips for fresh produce as they stepped into the walk-through vehicle to select their fruit and vegetables.

Among them was Dana Robinson, who has two twin 10-year-old boys. She said she was trying to keep her two boys healthy but it wasn’t easy for her.

“To do that, you have to have healthy food like this,” she said.

Dana is in nursing school while also working part time as a nursing assistant. She sometimes struggles to put food on the table for her twins, and she knows their health can suffer because of it.

“I’m here right now because my children are hungry,” she said.

Health and hunger often intersect. According to the Hunger in America study, 44 percent of clients surveyed said they were in fair or poor health. Sixty percent of client households include someone with high blood pressure. And, more than one-third of client households include someone with diabetes.

It’s clear to us that health can suffer due to a lack of access to nutritious food, which is why we’ve built new partnerships with health clinics, including ACCESS Community Health Network and the Cook County Health and Hospitals System (CCHHS), to promote health by addressing hunger.

To that end, ACCESS and CCHHS clinics are now screening patients for food insecurity. If a patient screens positive, they will be referred to Food Depository partner agencies in their area and SNAP Outreach. They will also be given a referral slip, which is like a prescription for fresh produce, at an upcoming Fresh Truck distribution.

As part of the recently released Cook County Food Access Plan – a three-pronged strategy to strengthen the response to food insecurity and expand access to nutritious food in Cook County – we plan to expand health screenings to all 35 county health centers by the end of 2017. 

Food means so much to people who are struggling in our community. It is hope. It is strength. And for some, food is medicine. The Food Depository understands this and we will continue to work with partners throughout Cook County to provide hungry men, women and children with the nutritious food they need to live healthy lives.

*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. Kate also currently serves as the National Council chair for Feeding America and has a seat on the board of directors.

Tags: Innovative Solutions to Hunger , Nutrition , Illinois , Greater Chicago Food Depository

Stay Informed

Get email updates about what we're doing to help solve hunger and how you can help.