Responding To Chicago’s Heightened Need For Food

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Greater Chicago Food Depository driver delivers to our newest neighbors

Credit: Photo credit: Greater Chicago Food Depository

Greater Chicago Food Depository driver Angel Zamora is proud to deliver food and water to new arrivals staying at Chicago police stations.  

Three times a week, Greater Chicago Food Depository driver, Angel Zamora, fills a van with bottled water and bags of food packed with fresh produce, fruit, ready-to-eat snacks and toiletries. He delivers them to around 20 Chicago police stations where people seeking asylum are temporarily staying.

Zamora’s arrival is highly anticipated. As he pulls up, a couple of men emerge ready to help unload the supplies. A line of people, mostly women carrying sleeping children, starts to form to receive the individual bags of food. Everyone greets each other warmly and politely.

Zamora is one of five Food Depository drivers who make the deliveries. The food bank and its partner network of pantries and meal sites have been working with the City of Chicago, the State of Illinois and a coalition of nonprofit organizations since September 2022 to provide food and essential items for the new arrivals.

Zamora treasures his current work assignment. He says the experience has provided him the opportunity to reflect on and appreciate the struggles that his father, who moved to Chicago from Mexico in the eighties, and other immigrants went through in search of a safer and better life.

“We should always try to find a way to help others.” – Angel Zamora

“It’s humbling,” said Zamora, 24, who was born in Chicago and is the eldest of three. “Back then, my family didn’t have the help that (the new arrivals) are getting now. I’m glad to be a part of the support that they are getting. They could’ve been any one of us – anyone not born in the U.S. It’s heartwarming to give them a hand.”

Zamora lives in Marquette Park with his girlfriend, 3-year-old daughter and other family members and is often heard describing his work as “meaningful”.

“We should always try to find a way to help others,” he added.

While distributing bags of oranges, crackers, tuna and toiletries, Zamora has learned that many of the new arrivals were compelled to make the dangerous journey to the U.S. to escape violence, poverty, and hunger. Many have shared stories of long journeys on foot, where some encountered violence or were robbed of the few possessions they had.

“Most of them have nothing,” Zamora said.

Credit: Photo credit: Greater Chicago Food Depository

Food Depository driver Angel Zamora says he is moved by the selflessness and gratitude of the new arrivals.  

Several of the men have asked him for job leads, eager to start supporting their families themselves. Zamora empathizes. “It’s hard to ask another man for help to support your family.”

At each of his delivery sites, Zamora is greeted with pure gratitude and is struck by the heartwarming expressions of selflessness.

“There’s always a positive energy. If I’m delivering water, most will take two bottles and tell me to take the rest to another site. They’re not greedy,” observes Zamora, adding that the men often take the food and water to the women first.

In addition to the police station deliveries, the Food Depository is providing prepared meals, snacks, water and diapers at shelter sites throughout the city, serving approximately 2,500 new arrivals weekly. These deliveries are in addition to its existing hunger-relief programs and are possible thanks to the ongoing generosity of Food Depository supporters. Several of the Food Depository’s community partners are also serving new arrivals at their food pantries and other meal programs.

The Food Depository is sourcing nutritious, high-quality and culturally affirming meals from BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and certified MWBE (Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprise) restaurants and caterers. This approach is part of the Food Depository’s commitment to strengthening the local economy of historically disinvested neighborhoods by prioritizing local and diverse businesses. As the food bank supplies nutritious meals to people staying at shelter sites, it is also addressing the root causes of poverty and hunger locally.

Credit: Photo credit: Greater Chicago Food Depository

Food Depository meal production cook Belinda Longmire prepares culturally appropriate meals for new arrivals staying at a nearby shelter. 

In August 2023, the Food Depository began preparing and delivering its own made-from-scratch meals to some shelter locations. Zamora is delighted and proud to learn that he has been selected to deliver the Food Depository-prepared meals to new arrivals at a nearby shelter.

“Our emergency food response is guided by the belief that food is a basic human right and everyone deserves to eat, whether they arrived in our community today or have lived here their entire life,” said Amy Laboy, the Food Depository’s vice president of programs and community partnerships.

The Food Depository remains committed to working collaboratively with the city, state, community partners and donors for as long as is needed to ensure everyone in the community – longtime neighbor or new arrival – has the nutritious food they need to thrive.

More from The Greater Chicago Food Depository

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