Thanksgiving alone doesn't fill bellies of the city's hungry
Chicago Sun Times November 30, 2009 http://www.suntimes.com/news/cepeda/1910709,CST-EDT-esther30.article
BY ESTHER J. CEPEDA
'Tis the season to be jolly! You're stuffed from the turkey and trimmings, all the relatives have been placated for the time being, and the Christmas carols haven't gotten on your nerves yet.
But things are moving quickly. There are greeting cards to mail, people to visit, electronic gadgets to hunt down and parties to get to. You're busy. Verrrrry busy. And stressed out, and even a little overwhelmed . . . ummmm, maybe this is not the time to ask for a favor?
Well, here I go anyway, but I'll make it as simple as possible: Please feed me.
And when I say "me," well, OK, so not me, per se . . . but all the other "me's" I live and work with: young neighbors, old friends, co-workers and kids. Yours, too. They're all still hungry after the Thanksgiving holiday.
"I can't tell you how many times I've wished there was as much attention paid to the hunger problem in this city after Thanksgiving as before," Kate Maehr, executive director of the Greater Chicago Food Depository, Cook County's main food bank, told me last week.
"It really is incredible how generous people are leading up to Thanksgiving, but hunger in Chicago is a 365-day-a-year challenge," she said.
Maehr had gotten my attention by appealing to my insatiable devouring of delicious statistics via this delectable e-mail:
"Between now and the end of December the Food Depository will distribute:
• 241,920 pounds of turkey
• 67,500 pounds of yams
• 43,200 pounds of ham
• 36,960 pounds of cranberry sauce
• 33,516 pounds of corn
• 19,440 pounds of stuffing
• 18,000 pounds of chicken
• 4,375 pounds of gravy . . ."
I called her to really sink my teeth into the logistics of slinging all those goodies to almost half a million Chicagoans every year when I was distracted by the phrase, ". . . but the need continues."
"What do you mean the need continues?" I asked her incredulously. "Aren't there like 7 gazillion food drives at the holidays. Isn't this your easiest time of the year to raise food and funds? Holiday spirit? Good will toward men?"
Kate was kind enough to not bite my head off.
"We have almost 600 member agencies struggling to keep food on shelves; there is such a dramatic increase in people turning to these agencies that we're shattering records," she said. "For instance, September tends to be a really slow month for us, but this September, we were already 26 percent ahead of last year's pace in pantry visits, and 70 percent ahead of the pace of two years ago."
"But what about the spirit of the season, Zuzu's petals and all that -- don't you rake it in at this time of year?" I asked.
"Well, that's certainly the case leading up to Thanksgiving, but December is a whole different story. We all get preoccupied with our lists -- gifts to buy, things to pack for vacation, resolutions to start -- and along the way, people start to think that one can of food or a small donation doesn't do much," she said. "That couldn't be farther from the truth -- that one can of food, the $5 donation, it means everything to us. And we need you every day."
So there it is.
And here I am, asking on behalf of me, and Maehr, and the Greater Chicago Food Depository, and on behalf of the half-million Chicagoans -- a third of them children -- who are hungry, even when we're tight on cash and time: Feed young neighbors, old friends, co-workers and kids.
Take a moment this December to feed Chicago.