Chicago-area food banks report 'dramatic increase' in demand as many seek assistance for 1st time

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Donations to the Illinois Broadcasters Uniting Against Hunger fundraising campaign are already feeding families, friends and neighbors across Chicago.

As more residents struggle to put food on the table, the Greater Chicago Food Depository is offering $1 million in grants to its partners. It's part of an effort to help with the rising costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The money will go to food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and mobile programs.

"The need is dramatically increasing throughout all of Chicago and the Greater Chicago Food Depository was already serving hundreds and thousands of our neighbors before the pandemic hit, with schools closing, businesses closing, restaurants service industry hit especially hard," said Jim Conwell, a GCFD spokesman. "There are going to be tens of thousands, if not more, people who are seeking assistance on the table for the first time in their lives."

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Many are stepping up to not only donate their money, but also their time by keeping warehouses busy and packing at a safe distance.

"Chicago is a generous community and Illinois a generous state, and it's been so heartwarming to see IN a challenge in our lifetime," Conwell said. "There are so many people wanting to step up and help."

From the city to the suburbs, donations are providing a sense of security during challenging times.

"So many folks are living in uncertainty and so many of our folks have been laid off or had their hours reduced," said Julie Yurko, president and CEO of the Northern Illinois Food Bank. "So we are seeing the need grow dramatically."

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More than 10,000 boxes of food a week are being packed and shipped from the Northern Illinois Food Bank alone.

"Every dollar given to the food bank, we are able to buy $8 worth of grocery to our neighbors," Yurko said. "Even $5 allows us to get $40 worth of groceries to a hungry family."

Feeding America is the nation's largest hunger relief organization, supporting food banks across the U.S. and in Illinois.

To find locations of local food pantries, visit Feeding America's website here.

Illinois broadcasters, in partnership with Feeding Illinois and the Illinois Broadcasters Association, are getting close to reaching the drive's goal. You can give what you can or volunteer to lend a helping hand.

More information on the drive is available here.
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