The Disruption of Generational Poverty in Chicago


Food insecurity is a condition where people cannot reliably access adequate, nutritious food. It is the set of circumstances that prevent your access to food, and the lack of financial means and other resources that can cause this adverse condition to manifest. Food insecurity does not discriminate against anyone; there is no one face of food insecurity, your age, race, and genders do not matter. No one is exempt, from the horrible chain of effects because the need varies among children, older adults, people with disabilities, veterans, the working poor, and others, as does the best way of reaching them.

People who are food insecure struggle to avoid hunger, a more narrow physiological condition; food insecurity can happen anywhere and could be affecting someone in your neighborhood. The Food Depository serves more than 812,000 individuals and 232,100 households each year.

Poverty and hunger go hand and hand, and playwright Andrew Marikis gives us a glimpse of how a family is struggling to survive in contemporary Chicago with his play dedicated to the theme of Hunger called ‘Fast Food Chain' at Adventure Stage Chicago. The play creates a new outlook on Igbo folktale where heroes such as Hare and Tortoise are set against the backdrop of Chicago in 2019.


The story follows a brother and sister as they struggle with the traumata of not having enough food. Rudy/Hare (Davon Roberts) is a teenage boy who has big dreams of becoming a famous chef. Hare is very creative and has learned to create a meal from just about everything he can find and make it taste as it came from a five-star restaurant. Hare's problem is that he always seems to get into trouble. He almost burned up the kitchen, never wants to do his school work or work to help his mother and gets his little sister involved in his lies. Akari/Rat (La Shone Kelly) who is smart beyond her years and never falls for Hare schemes.

The family grapples with not having enough food to eat until one day Rudy and Akari stumble into a garden and meets Mbe/Tortoise (Yahdina U-deen). Mbe narrates a story of a lion, played by Rian Jairell who is the slum landlord and business owner of the local grocery store, who is only looking to make a profit off of the underprivileged people in the community.

The story continues with Ursula (Sonya Cha'Rae), the mother of Rudy and Akari, coming home from work. She is a woman that prides herself with doing whatever it takes to care for her kids. After coming home from cleaning houses, she would go without eating to make sure her children ate. She is struggling with paying her rent, but fear of her kids worrying about food and shelter prevents her from telling them that she is getting their food from the food pantry.


With the wisdom and creativity of Akari, she is able to create a shopping cart where Hare can cook his amazing dishes and sell them to the community. Mbe has agreed to let Hare use the food from her garden, but he has to work in the garden and promise to give back to the community some of the food he grows. The play provides a lot of lessons about trust, hunger and caring for those within our communities.

Fast Food Chain is entertaining; however, its message of food insecurity is a reality that is afflicting so many cities in America and many counties right here in Chicago. Thanks to Northwestern Settlement Leadership and their food pantry that serves, 200 families a week and 2, 500 families annually and ASC Leadership for putting a face on an abstract idea to allow us to see hunger and its effects up close.

Collectively this play is brought together with all of the actors representing a pivotal part in food insecurity, such as the man Eddie (Kelvin Davis) who ran the neighborhood grocery store that sometimes had spoiled food that he needs to try and sell. As well as the old lady (Lisa Revis) who went to the store consistently to purchase her food.

Award-winning Director Daryl Brooks eases the audience into a very serious topic that combats social issues and is at the forefront of America with stellar directing leading us into an adventure of folktale and reality. As simple as the design set of empty milk and water bottles, the power of storytelling is showcased to lift the voices and satiate our collective hunger. Even if the characters felt that they had to lie to combat the situation that they lived in.

Once the play was over, the cast of Fast Food Chain came back to the stage to discuss the play and food insecurity within Chicago. Marikis shared with us that some of his inspiration came from working with Chicago students and companies that helped feed those in need.

Let's Play ‘Recommend' that your thirst for hunger land you at the ASC Theater to see ‘Fast Food Chain.' The question now becomes how you can help someone who is living in food insecurity?

Adventure Stage Chicago at the Vittum Theater
Fast Food Chain
Written by Andrew Marikis
Directed by Black Ensemble Theater's Daryl Brooks
April 26 to May 18, 2019

Filed under: ChicagoNow

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