Food insecurity has long been a problem in the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood, but Father Matthew O’Donnell, who oversees St. Columbanus’ food pantry on the South side of Chicago, says the challenge became even greater during the COVID-19 crisis. Residents are facing job loss and health issues due to the pandemic, and some food pantries and soup kitchens have temporarily closed. The Greater Chicago Food Depository saw a 40 percent spike in demand in March compared to the same time last year, while the amount of donated food they received dropped by 30 percent.
“Other food pantries are closing and they’re directing people to us. I’m seeing a lot of new faces in line each week,” O’Donnell said.
St. Columbanus is one of 28 sites across the South Side where community members struggling to feed themselves or their families can pick up meals prepared and distributed by the University of Chicago as part of the University’s Community Support Initiative. This week, UChicago Dining workers—many of whom are South Side residents—prepared and, in partnership with the Greater Chicago Food Depository, distributed the 150,000th meal to these sites since the University launched the initiative on March 30.