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Hyde Park, Woodlawn, South Shore

Hyde Park Neighborhood Club Joins Resident-Led Food Programs To Feed More Families, Frontline Workers

Two initiatives started by Hyde Parkers — the Kenwood Food Project and Feeding Frontliners — have joined forces and gained the backing of the neighborhood nonprofit.

2020 Kenwood Academy graduates pose with gift cards donated through the Kenwood Food Project after their drive-through graduation ceremony last June.
Linda Swift
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HYDE PARK — Hyde Park resident Linda Swift’s Kenwood Food Project has joined forces with another local initiative to feed more people — and they’re already seeing an uptick in donations thanks to help from a neighborhood group.

Through the Kenwood Food Project, donors can buy gift cards from local restaurants for the families of Kenwood Academy students, supporting struggling businesses and families needing food assistance.

The project recently joined forces with fellow local initiative Feeding Frontliners to operate with the support of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club. Feeding Frontliners pays local restaurants to make meals for University of Chicago Medicine employees.

With the support of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club, donors’ money can be pooled and all donations are tax-deductible.

Under the umbrella of the neighborhood club’s Neighbors Together program, Swift and Feeding Frontliners coordinators Kate Oakes and Susan Alitto will largely continue their efforts as they had before the club’s backing.

“I think it’s so cool that neighbors — individual people — are stepping up to take initiative on relevant issues,” said Angela Habr-Paranjape, executive director of the neighborhood club. “I’m so happy that [the neighborhood club] could be here to support.”

The centralized system has already led to a boost in donations for the Kenwood Food Project.

Last week, Swift used the donations to spend $200 at each of the five restaurants and two grocers participating in the program. That means about 30 families will receive $50 gift cards, which were delivered to Kenwood Academy on Thursday.

“After we had this easy way of people giving, our project took in quite a bit,” Swift said.

Since May, Swift has made partnerships with Hyde Park Produce and food service distributor Food and Paper Supply‘s outlet store on South Chicago Avenue.

Three new restaurants have started participating, in addition to founding partners Pizza Capri and Medici on 57th:

While donations were plentiful enough in Swift’s most recent gift card run, she and the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club developed a system for “equitably” supporting all partners if the same isn’t true for future distributions.

Four $50 gift cards will be purchased from each partner each week, going through the roster in alphabetical order until funds run out. A new business will lead off the order each week “so the same one isn’t always the first one chosen,” Swift said.

Feeding Frontliners is in a different position — they hadn’t yet given away food before joining with the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club. The project’s first delivery of 100 meals to UChicago Medicine workers is set for Sunday, Oakes said.

Half of the food will be provided by Ascione Bistro, and the other half will come from one of restauranteur Rico Nance’s Hyde Park shops: Mikkey’s Retro Grill, LiteHouse Whole Food GrillSoul Shack or Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat.

Oakes and Alitto initially hoped to raise $1500 for 150 meals, which is enough to feed an entire shift of workers at the medical center.

But with the city gradually reopening and Chicagoans’ attentions shifting from the pandemic, they opted instead to take the $1,000 raised to date and move quickly with their first distribution.

“There are still medical workers in this arena that would love to be fed, and COVID still exists,” Oakes said. “We just want to remind people that this is still a need … so we decided we would make a delivery for this weekend to inspire people to make more donations.”

Organizers are open to the possibility of expanding Feeding Frontliners beyond UChicago Medicine workers if donations allow.

“I’m happy that Linda Swift could come on board and we could all come together to find a way to give — not only to hospital workers, but to our other neighbors in need,” Oakes said.

You can give to each project here with a one-time or recurring donation.

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