“We have 1 goal. 1 mission. To fight hunger 1 dollar, 1 meal, 1 person at a time. Until the day that No 1 Goes Hungry.” (Greater Chicago Food Depository)
The Greater Chicago Food Depository was established in 1979 as a logistics operation for food banks and soup kitchens. It’s mission is to provide food for hungry people and strive to end hunger in our community. It has a network membership of 650 food pantries, soup kitchens, mobile programs, children’s programs, and older adult initiatives.
They also operate a fourteen week training program, Chicago's Community Kitchens. The program develops basic hard kitchen skills and soft employment skills. Students are usually unemployed, under employed, former prisoners, or others who need entry level education to start a career working in the food service industry.
In 2013, The Greater Chicago Food Depository distributed 66 million pounds of food, equivalent to 150,000 meals daily.
The Greater Chicago Food Depository is located at 4100 W. Ann Lurie Place, on Chicago's Southwest Side.
It takes up a full square city block and houses 268,000 square feet of space for warehouse, distribution and receiving, administrative, the school, and other programs.
The Greater Chicago Food Depository is a full service food distribution program, on par with major wholesale food distribution companies.
Paul Morello, the Public Relations Coordinator, and Executive Chef, Karmela Galicia gave a tour of the massive facility. What is striking is the extreme cleanliness throughout. Everything is spotless and shiny. The facility looks brand new, though it was opened in 2004.
It is evident that Mr. Morello and Chef Galacia have a passion for what they do.
The Food Depository also operates Chicago's Community Kitchens, run by Executive Chef Galicia. This is a training program for unemployed and under employed people. Students are trained for entry level positions in the food service industry. They learn basic kitchen skills, sanitation, and packaging and distribution.
Chef Gailicia explained how the program works, the tiers students must go through, and how various kitchen and work life skills are reinforced throughout the program. She listed the numerous places that hire their graduates or provide internships for them.
Program is fourteen weeks long. Students come from all over the Chicago area, many taking public transportation. Some alumni eventually opened their own catering or baking businesses.
Student, Ken Bruce 30, is near graduation. He works nights in retail stocking shelves. He gets about four hours of sleep before heading to the school on public transportation from the north Beverly neighborhood. Mr. Bruce developed a passion for baking and hopes to open his own business one day.
Passion is something everyone who works or learns in the facility seems to share. The students have a passion for learning food service and the staff have passion for the mission of the Food Depository. There is also great pride in what they do.
Any cook will tell you there is no greater love than to provide food. Maybe the greatest love is to provide food for those who have none.
During the tour of the kitchen area, students were preparing lunches for the facility's cafeteria. Some were preparing childrens packaged lunches in the 40 degree cold room. The school purchases all food for the school and cafeteria. This ensures it can be sourced and traced back in case of recalls.
The kitchen was relatively quiet, with students and chef instructors going about their business in a workman like manner.
The warehouse space is massive. Almost celing height shelves of donated food line the aisles. Again, the area is spotless. Forklifts move products to and from the warehouse. The operation is a mix of employees and volunteers. The large stainless steel ceiling fans resemble helicopter blades.
There is also a receiving and shipping dock, mechanized packaging lines, and a commissary. Food pantries can order their products on line and pick them up or have them delivered.
The Greater Chicago Food Depository is more than just a food distribution hub. It is an advocacy organization. "Our job is to advocate for hungry people and the food they need to lead healthy, productive lives." (Kate Maehr CEO GCFD)
The Greater Chicago Food Depository has several ways people can get involved to fight hunger. You can donate money. Donate food or start a food drive. They are also looking for people to volunteer. They offer a Pantry University for those who want to open a food bank or utilize other ways to feed the hungry. They will also show you how to start a children's program.
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