LITTLE VILLAGE — When the coronavirus pandemic swept through Chicago, the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization and Getting Grown Collective came together to help families struggling with food insecurity on the South and West sides where COVID-19 cases were high.
They named their group Farm, Food, Familias Mutual Aid and provided 20,000 meals to families.
Now, they are fundraising with hopes of continuing the program through the end of the year.
Launched in May 2020, the mutual aid initiative started by delivering 50 meals to families in Little Village, Englewood, South Shore, Marquette Park, Washington Park and Humboldt Park, said Yasmin Ruiz, the program coordinator’s from LVEJO.
The need for meals quickly went up. They are now delivering 350 meals weekly. The effort, funded through grants and donations, is helping neighborhoods most affected by lack of access to food, unemployment and overburdened food pantries, Ruiz said.
The group hired local chefs Fresh Roberson from Fresher Together, Roberto Pérez from Urban Pilón, Karla Adora Morales from Amor y Sofrito and Kwamena Jackson from Let Us Breathe Collective to help prepare the meals, which are delivered every Wednesday.
In December, national nonprofit Feeding America estimated 785,890 people in Cook County were food insecure — a 51 percent increase since 2018.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecure as “a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.”
Systemic inequities over generations have led to disproportionate rates of poverty and food insecurity among Black and Latino families. Black and Hispanic households face food insecurity at rates more than double those of white households, according to the USDA.
The coronavirus crisis has worsened disparities, leaving people of color more likely to contract coronavirus and suffer from the economic fallout. A recent Northwestern University study showed that 4-in-10 Black and Latino households with children report they are food insecure.
It’s also on Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s agenda. To combat food insecurity, on Thursday she announced the Food Equity Agenda, an initiative aimed at “removing barriers to urban farming, supporting BIPOC food entrepreneurs and better connecting residents with nutrition programs.”
Ruiz said the pandemic exacerbated issues in Southwest Side neighborhoods, including food insecurity, that predated the pandemic.
“The pandemic really made us aware of our communities’ struggles, and I feel like Farm, Food, Familias has provided our community with food security and job security,” Ruiz said.
Farm, Food, Familias meals are prepared with organic, locally grown ingredients and offer culturally appropriate meals that are healthy, Ruiz said. The group has paid chefs, delivery drivers and volunteers, many of whom lost jobs during the pandemic, to get meals to families, Ruiz said. “It’s also about providing community with financial stability.”
Even as state-issued restrictions have been lifted, Ruiz said there are still families struggling with the impact of the pandemic and help is still needed.
“There are people who don’t have anything to eat, especially in the communities we focus on the Southwest Sides,” she said said.
To donate to Farm, Food, Familias click here.
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