Washington Square Health Foundation Food Pantry Initiative

Since 2012, Washington Square Health Foundation has been funding food pantries through our Food Pantry Initative. The recent economic downturn, in reality, has been the worst recession since the great depression.  While the economists have declared the recession over and the economy improving, no one has told that to the millions of still unemployed, including both the recent and long term unemployed. The long term unemployed are not even counted in the unemployment statistics.

Unemployment has hit lower income, lower middle and middle income families in disproportionate numbers and severity, as compared to the upper middle and upper income groups.  This situation, along with the general lack of available funds for the social welfare safety net has meant, as recent newspaper articles have attested, a real lack of one of the most basic elements of primary care, “nutrition”.

Providing health care and educational opportunities, as well as counseling services, are truly important; however, they cannot be effective if people in our society are going hungry because they cannot afford to eat a healthy diet.  The Foundation has recognized this most basic aspect of a civil society and of primary health care.  We do not let people or their children starve, regardless of whether they are homeless, unemployed or even illegal immigrants.  We feed prisoners because not to do so violates the basic principle of not allowing for cruel and inhuman treatment.  How much more so do we need to take action to help feed the more unfortunate elements of our society?

The Washington Square Health Foundation recognizes that it cannot feed all of Chicagoland’s hungry people.  However, just as we cannot totally solve every aspect of the health care crisis, the Foundation still makes a concerted effort to help those it can. The Foundation thereby  provides health care that would otherwise not be available to the medically underserved, while searching for more efficient means of delivering health care services under its direct health care services funding guideline.  As a “Proactive Grantor”, we have often identified a particular health care need and identified specific clinics or service providers for funding to meet that need; for example, the first Home Health Care Agency in Chicago for AIDS Patients, the first use of a Nutritionist as part of the HIV/AIDS Health Care Team, implementation of the Emergency Department Overcrowding Study and establishing the first Nurse Practitioner Clinical Sites.  All of these innovative “proactive grant programs” included funding staff recommended grantees to implement the objectives of these programs.  We now propose to do something similar for “nutrition”.  The Foundation has already given support to a specific food depository/bank for a freezer and other equipment for the safe and healthy storage of donated and purchased food, as well as to insure the food provided to individuals is appropriate to their health conditions, as well as general program support.

This Food Pantry initiative is a Board directed proactive grant program.  Therefore, the Foundation will not be accepting applications for this new initiative.  The Washington Square Health Foundation will identify food depositories that serve specific ethnic, religious or cultural geographic areas in the Chicagoland area.  At each Grant Committee meeting through February 2013, the Board of Directors will designate one of these food pantries to be the recipient of a  non-renewable $25,000 grant for program support.

Recipients of a Food Pantry Initiative Special Designated Grant will be required to fulfill the special reporting requirements below:

  1. Provide a brief description of how the funds will be utilized;
  2. Provide two reports (in narrative format) updating WSHF on the progress of the project.  The  first report will be due six months after funds are disbursed, and  the second report will due one year after funds have been disbursed; and
  3. Grant funds may be used for program support, including but not limited to equipment, nutritionist services, food purchases, etc.

The Washington Square Health Foundation is pleased to announce that its first Food Pantry Initiative grant has been awarded to the North Park Friendship Center’s Food Pantry.  For more information about North Park Friendship Center, please visit www.npfriendshipcenter.org