Starting this week, the University of Chicago will partner with locally-owned South Side caterers to provide 50,000 free meals over seven weeks to local residents, as well as provide additional assistance to small businesses and nonprofits navigating a landscape shaped by the ongoing pandemic and protests for racial justice. Through this effort, the University will continue to support the local community at a time of great economic and social pressure, while creating opportunities for South Side caterers who have seen a dramatic decrease in business as a result of the pandemic.
The effort is the second phase of UChicago’s Community Support Initiative, which provided free meals, grants to small businesses and nonprofits, rent relief to University tenants, and support for health care workers and patients at UChicago Medicine. The first phase of the Community Support Initiative officially ended June 12 but, given the ongoing public health and economic challenges, the University is launching a second phase of assistance.
“When the University first introduced the Community Support Initiative, the idea was to leverage the University’s strength as a South Side anchor and close the resource gap for our neighbors who were struggling as they waited for help from other sources,” said Derek Douglas, UChicago’s Vice President for Civic Engagement and External Affairs. “Thanks to donors and partners who stepped up, we will be able to build on the success of this initiative’s first phase. While we recognize that this expanded effort won’t be able to address every issue our shared community is facing in this moment of great need, we’re pleased to have an opportunity to continue to make an impact.”
The second phase of the initiative will include the following elements:
New meal distribution program
From June 22 to Aug. 9, UChicago will work closely with catering businesses on the South Side to prepare and distribute 1,000 meals per day to approximately 15 distribution sites, many of which serve seniors and other vulnerable populations who are susceptible to COVID-19.
“It’s really like a lifeline for us because all of our business was cancelled. We did festivals in the summer; we did weddings and meetings, and none of that’s happening. It’s like you went to bed having a really good quarter, and you woke up and you have nothing,” said Renee Bradford, president of C’est Si Bon catering, which has locations in Bronzeville and on the West Side. “We’re very appreciative of the University for reaching out to small businesses like mine because it’s going to be a big help for us in trying to refocus and get back online as the economy opens.”
The majority of the food distribution sites are senior buildings open only to residents of those facilities. Distribution sites that are open to the public are listed below:
- Hyde Park SDA Soup Kitchen, 4608 S. Drexel Blvd., Hyde Park
- Inner City Mission, 7445 S. South Chicago Ave., Greater Grand Crossing
- YWCA, 6600 S. Cottage Grove Ave., Woodlawn