Northwest Food Partners Network Distributes over 40,000 Pounds of Produce in Humboldt Park

On 6/6/20, the Northwest Food Partners Network and Kells Park Community Council successfully distributed over 40,000 pounds of produce to our community.

About the Giveaway

On Saturday, June 6th, the Northwest Food Partners Network (NFPN), Kells Park Community Council, and La Casa Norte successfully distributed a shipment of over 1600 boxes of produce to Chicagoans living in Humboldt Park and surrounding neighborhoods.

The 1620 boxes of produce were provided to us by Food Rescue US, which received the boxes through the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box program.

Strict social distancing and mask-wearing practices were put in place during the giveaway, minimizing the possible spread of COVID-19.

Each box was filled with approximately 25 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables. Altogether, over 40,000 pounds of produce were distributed, promoting the health and happiness of hundreds of households.

Block Club Chicago wrote an article sharing our event, leading to an enormous turnout. Within two hours, all 40,000 pounds of produce were distributed.

Addressing COVID-19

In the community we serve, food, socioeconomic status, and health are inextricably linked. During COVID-19, the health and nutrition of our community have become especially vulnerable. Our produce giveaway was an effort to address these vulnerabilities.

A woman receiving produce for her family from a volunteer at our June 2020 Produce Giveaway

Due to layoffs and other unemployment situations, demand at food pantries and hot meal programs in our community has skyrocketed. This April, traffic on NFPN’s emergency food resources page went up 1000% compared to this February.

While donations have risen, finding the PPE and volunteers necessary to safely distribute food has not been easy. Some emergency food providers in our community have been forced to shut down or operate in a reduced capacity during the pandemic. Health concerns have made it difficult for elderly and medically vulnerable community members to safely access emergency food.

Volunteers at La Casa Norte’s Nutrition Center.

By distributing over 40,000 pounds of fresh produce (and practicing social distancing while doing so) we took a small step towards food and health equity in our community. But there’s still much to be done, which is why we are currently coordinating future produce donations and distributions.

Why We Fight Hunger

In terms of food access, health outcomes, and socioeconomic status, the neighborhoods that NFPN focuses on (Humboldt Park, Hermosa, East Garfield Park, Belmont Cragin, West Town, and Logan Square) are among Chicago’s historically underserved communities.

The households we serve are largely located in food and transportation deserts. “L” train stops are few and far between, and supermarkets aren’t as abundant as they are in other parts of Chicago. This makes it difficult for community members to access fresh, nutritious produce.

In addition, household reliance on SNAP (i.e. “food stamps”) in our community is high, as depicted by the map below. Unfortunately, “junk food” often offers more calories per dollar and has a better shelf life than fresh fruits and vegetables.

SNAP (Food Stamp) Usage in Chicago (Map by Ryan Maia, NFPN)

Severe Housing Cost Burden rates are also well above the citywide average in many of the neighborhoods we serve. Families dealing with severe housing cost burdens are often forced to choose between paying the bills and buying nutritious food. Recent gentrification and soaring rent prices have only exacerbated this issue.

Severe Housing Cost Burden in Chicago (Map by Ryan Maia, NFPN)

As a result of these and other socioeconomic factors, the community we serve is seriously affected by nutrition-related health issues.

For example, Humboldt Park has a staggering 27.7% child obesity rate, almost 10% higher than the national average. Heart disease—”the nation’s top killer”—causes death among East Garfield Park residents at a rate of 309.4 per 100,000, significantly higher than the national rate of 163.6 per 100,000.

In addition to these health concerns, COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted communities of color in Chicago. Both contraction and mortality rates have been notably higher for black and brown community members.

What Comes Next?

The Northwest Food Partners Network will continue to fight for an end to hunger in our community.

  • We’ll continue distributing nutritious food to our community and rescuing food that would otherwise end up in our landfill. Recognizing that food access intersects with so many other socioeconomic challenges, we’ll continue to create platforms that spread employment, housing, immigration, finances, and legal help—like our COVID-19 Hub and The NFPN Blog.
  • We’ve continued to add partners to our network during the ongoing pandemic, and we have no doubt our membership will only continue to expand. As our network grows, so will our capacity to fight—and ultimately end—hunger in our community.

Join Us in the Fight Against Hunger