Group gives needy fresh food, healthy options

July 27, 2009 (CHICAGO) You don't have to look far to find people who have been hit hard by the recession. But for those who were already struggling the impact is often worse. We saw that up close recently as a community came together to give and receive a helping hand.

In the North Lawndale community on the city's West Side, this is a day for back-wrenching work and community cooperation.

At the social service agency Family Focus Lawndale, they call it 'community feed day.'

"We had people that were getting laid off. They were losing their jobs and we thought this would be a good asset to our organization," said Sherneron Hilliard, Center Director, Family Focus Lawndale.

Together with the Greater Chicago Food Depository, the group feeds more than 200 at a time. In this area, considered a food desert, it's often easier to purchase corn chips than corn on the cob. So, the priority is on distributing high-quality, fresh foods through the 'producemobile.'

"About a quarter of the food we're distributing now is fruits and vegetables. So we're doing everything we can to make sure healthy food is available to everyone in our community," said Bob Dolgan, Greater Chicago Food Depository.

For Kim Lee, a single mother of two who has been out of work and battling breast cancer since December of 2008, the goods are a precious commodity.

"My health is important to me and I would prefer the fresh fruit and vegetables, but sometimes you can't get what you need. You have to go with the cheaper," said Lee, a resident of North Lawndale.

Center director Sherneron Hilliard understands the economic barriers to buying fresh foods, but hopes this effort will help bridge the gap and improve public health.

"In the African-American community and the Latino community, there's a huge increase in cardiovascular disease and diabetes," said Sherneron Hilliard, center director, Family Focus Lawndale. "We're just trying to really decrease hypertension in the Lawndale area."

For Lee, the outreach could not have come at a better time.

"It's just good to know that the situation we are in financially and physically that we could be blessed by the mobile food pantry," said Lee.

The Greater Chicago Food Depository reports that requests for food have increased about 35 percent over the last year, specifically in suburban areas, with middle class people who may have never sought help before.

The producemobiles visit about 40 locations around Chicago every month.

Fore more information about where you can find these mobile food pantries and when, please visit the following Web sites:

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