HISTORY OF Greater Chicago Food Depository
Since 1979, the Food Depository has made a daily impact on hunger across Cook County. The Food Depository acts as the hub for a network of more than 700 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and other programs. Alford Group has partnered with the Greater Chicago Food Depository (GCFD) for almost 20 years.
Although GCFD works diligently to meet the hunger need, that need in Cook County is growing, and older, homebound adults or people with disabilities comprise a significant portion of potentially unmet need. in recent years, the pace has accelerated;more people have turned to pantries, soup kitchens and shelters for food access, and since 2001 the Food Depository has more than doubled its annual distribution of food. Today, this food is received by more than 812,000 families, children, older adults, veterans, people with disabilities and many other vulnerable members of our community each year – one in every six people in Cook County.
Hunger, poor health and economic inequity are all deeply interrelated. With nearly 33 percent of Cook County residents now residing in low-income households, research shows that if not addressed immediately the elevated need for nourishment will accelerate cycles of poverty and poor health:
- Food insecurity increases the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety and stress, cognitive problems, asthma and the risk of being hospitalized; the associated health care costs fuel the cycle of poverty.
- At-risk families often make difficult tradeoff decisions and buy inexpensive, nutrient-deficient food or skip meals altogether. These trade-offs compound, making it more difficult to live a healthy life, to sustain confidence needed for employment and to remain engaged in the community.
As the nature of hunger changes, the Food Depository must transform its approach. To fully express the entirety of their mission, GCFD seeks to provide healthy food and meals for those who struggle with hunger and become a stronger change agent and address the root causes of hunger. These are the objectives driving the Nourish Campaign, the transformational fundraising initiatives to provide the resources needed for the Food Depository to: Grow its capacity to distribute more fresh, nutritious food; partner with others in new and more effective ways; and adopt bold new approaches to meet Cook County’s changing needs.to do so, they enlisted the services of Alford Group in order to raise the funds to increase the production of a meal manufacturing facility and to develop a comprehensive and effective corporate partnership strategy.
THE NOURISH CAMPAIGN
In collaboration with Alford Group, GCFD began planning the Nourish Campaign to enable GCFD to evolve its distribution capabilities and increase scale in meal provision/delivery. The Campaign’s Phase I secured more than $20 million to renovate our current facility. The renovation boosted efficiency, reduced waste, and increased the distribution of fresh produce. It allowed the Food Depository to accept more product donations and better serve its 22,000 annual volunteers.
Phase II will help build a new structure next to the current building, providing a home for:
- A new meal preparation facility capable of producing up to 25,000 meals each day, or 6.5 million meals per year, and delivering these meals to community partners such as health clinics or directly to home-bound individuals. The facility will utilize volunteers, employ local community members and leverage our Chicago Community Kitchens students in meal preparation and distribution to homes, schools, clinics, etc.
- An enhanced Chicago’s Community Kitchens program, our workforce development commitment that has already helped more than 1200 students escape poverty via employment in the food industry
- A Nutrition Education Center, where the Food Depository and a local higher education partner will train agency and community partners to better guide and motivate their clients toward a healthier diet
- A Community Partners Hub where the Food Depository can convene the many players needed for coordinated action, including neighborhood leaders, human service and childcare organizations, education and healthcare providers, faith communities, public officials, the food industry, and funders
- An Impact Café offering healthy food choices for volunteers, visitors from partner organizations and the surrounding business community, while generating revenue to support the Food Depository
With ambitious goals, GCFD needed to leverage corporate partnerships. Through market intelligence research, Alford Group found that the Food Depository is in a strong position to deliver on the business and mission impact needed to drive a full complement of corporate partnership types.
Alford Group conducted peer benchmarking with five organizations with similar corporate partnership value propositions to GCFD, as well as partner interviews with current corporate partners of the Food Depository. Alford Group found that in order to attract quality corporate partnerships, it is vital to customize for and coordinate with corporate partners in order to meet expectations for return on their investments.
The Greater Chicago Food Depository proves that with a strong plan in place, an organization can drive transformational change in their community.