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By J.D. Piland
The Greater Chicago Food Depository

The Greater Chicago Food Depository is experiencing a “new normal” in hunger relief. Two years after the economic downturn, member pantries are still facing near-record levels of demand for food. Last year, the Food Depository distributed 66 million pounds of nonperishable food and fresh produce, dairy products and meat—the equivalent of 135,000 meals every day—through a network of 650 pantries, soup kitchens and shelters.

The Food Depository now serves 678,000 people annually, a 36 percent increase over three years ago. That’s one in eight people in Cook County.

Although food assistance helps make ends meet, hard choices lead to hunger:

  • 47 percent of households say they have to choose between paying for food and utilities
  • 44 percent report choosing between paying for food and rent or mortgage
  • 28 percent of clients say they have to choose between food and paying for medicine or healthcare

“I come here for my family,’’ says a young man at St. Cyprian’s Food Pantry. “I work, but it’s not enough. I come here. Here they help me.”

In 2009, St. Cyprian’s Food Pantry served 1,891 families and 7,293 individuals; in 2001, the pantry served 416 families and 1,607 individuals.

“We may have had to give out smaller bags of food, but we never turned anybody down,” says Rev. Jo Carole Bundy of St. Cyprian.

The Food Depository has been able to keep up with the demand because of the strong support of individuals in Chicagoland. You also can help the Food Depository keep up with the increased demand. Here’s how:

  • Make a comment below: For each comments, Tyson will add 100 pounds of chicken to a truck headed for the Food Depository—up to 30,000 pounds. (We promise we will not use your e-mail address for marketing purposes.)
  • Donate to the Food Depository: Your gift will immediately fight hunger in Cook County.
  • Volunteer at the Food Depository: Help us repack, load or distribute food into the community.
  • Host a food drive: Holding a food drive is an easy and fun way to help fight hunger.
  • Advocate for hunger relief: Take a stand against hunger. Let elected officials know that you support hunger-relief programs.