Hunger doesn’t exist in only a few neighborhoods. It doesn’t just occur among one group of people, or under one set of circumstances. Individuals facing hunger come from all communities and walks of life. They’re from all different backgrounds and they have many different needs. That’s why we’re using a variety of creative approaches to serve our hungry neighbors. And in fiscal year 2017, with your support, we launched three new tactics to connect those in need with nutritious food.

In January, at the Food Depository’s FRESH Truck produce distributions, we began distributing recipe cards that highlight specific items the clients were receiving that day.

“When we offer less-common produce like kale or tomatillos, clients are often hesitant to take it,” said Nicole Robinson, Food Depository vice president of community impact. “By offering them a recipe card, they’re more willing to try those healthy items out.”

The card includes characteristics of a certain item – kale for example. It would also include kale nutrition facts and a simple recipe such as kale slaw. As clients wait in line, they also receive a small sample of the completed recipe, which further encourages them to pick up that produce item.

“The recipe cards have been a big win,” said Emily Daniels, Food Depository manager of health and veteran programs. She’s noticed a shift in what clients are willing to take since they started receiving the cards. “We’re changing people’s minds on really healthy produce they would normally overlook.”

“We’re changing people’s minds on really healthy produce they would normally overlook.”

- Emily Daniels, Manager of Health and Veteran Programs, GCFD

In addition to better connecting with those at the intersection of health and hunger, the Food Depository reached a new population in fiscal year 2017: community college students. The new Healthy Student Markets at each of the City Colleges of Chicago provide healthy produce, protein and shelf-stable food to college students of all ages.

“There’s definitely a need among community college students,” said Iris Millan, who manages the Markets at Wright and Truman colleges. “Thirty to forty percent of our students who are participating in the pantry stated that at some point in their academic life, they’ve faced food insecurity.”

The Healthy Student Markets reach a population that often faces limited access to food.

“Students at community colleges aren’t necessarily your typical student – some may have children and families, some may be older. The Healthy Student Markets are available to anyone enrolled at the school,” said Kelsie Kliner, Food Depository senior manager of children and adult program operations.

In FY17, the Food Depository operated eight Healthy Student Markets, which served 45,000 individuals.

Also last year, the Food Depository made its Chicago’s Community Kitchens program more accessible with a condensed, simplified alternative. The four-week class covers food handling and students receive their food safety certification upon completion.

“One of the barriers students face to enrolling in the full program is the 14 week time commitment,” said Karmela Galicia, director of Chicago’s Community Kitchens. “The abbreviated program provides a very basic introduction to help students begin their journey to a career in foodservice.”