In the days before Governor Pritzker issued the shelter in place order in Illinois, I was overcome with feelings of insecurity. Stories of government mandated lock-downs and climbing infection rates had already begun to dominate traditional news outlets. On social media, friends shared pictures of packed parking lots and notes of relief for having scored a 32-pack of toilet paper the week prior. In the building I live in, a neighbor struck up a well-meaning, but unsettling conversation, “At least we’re young. We should be fine.”
I worried about what the future might hold for my community and my loved ones, especially my grandparents. It’s a running joke in my family that my grandpa could be a champion on the Price is Right, it’s not uncommon for him to visit four grocery stores in a day in search of the exact type of canned tomatoes. I was not surprised that he was on a first name basis with many of the employees of the Mariano’s local to his home, where he visits once daily to purchase my grandmother a fresh pastry. On top of the colossal threat COVID-19 poses to his health, the virus was sure to disrupt his social life, his daily routine, and other domestic comforts.
I decided to go to the grocery store to quell my own nerves and stock up on food for my grandparents. It took some convincing, but I got them to agree to stay indoors for the weekend. I knew this was a reluctant decision on their part, and I felt like the least I could do is make sure they have the food they like. At my grandma’s request, I made a list of their “staples”: 1 dozen of large eggs, 2 frozen tamales, 1 bag of Cuties, 3 cans of spam, 1 package of iceberg lettuce, 2 cans of Dole pears, 3 chocolate long-johns.
I am immensely grateful that my grandparents have most of the resources they need to weather this unprecedented storm. They are cranky. They are bored. But they have access to adequate healthcare and fresh food.
However, many others of their generation are not so fortunate, particularly seniors of color with low-incomes -- a population that H.O.M.E. strives to serve through our affordable housing and housing support programs. It has been said that this virus does not discriminate, but it certainly exasperates existing societal inequities, including structural racism. A study published last year found that residents of the Streeterville, a predominantly white neighborhood in Chicago, have a life expectancy 30 years greater than residents of the Englewood neighborhood, just 9 miles away.
If you are reading this blog, I know that you share our passion for a Chicago in which people of all ages uphold older adults and their ability to access the resources they need to thrive, including affordable healthy food. In that spirit I share the following resources for seniors and others who are experiencing food insecurity in Chicago. If you or someone you know is experiencing food insecurity, I hope you will find these resources useful. And if you are able to, please consider supporting these organizations with your funds or your time.
- H.O.M.E. - That’s right! Thanks to a generous grant from the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund we have a limited capacity to provide groceries to seniors in need of food assistance. Please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
- Greater Food Depository
- South Side Weekly - COVID-19 South Side Resource Guide - provides an extensive list of food related and other resources for South Side communities
- My Block, My Hood, My City - Community nonprofit providing care packages, food, and wellness calls for seniors
- Meals On Wheels - Serving Chicago’s homebound seniors and people with disabilities, Meals on Wheels has increased its capacity and continues to serve a growing number of individuals in need throughout the City of Chicago.