When Galewood Neighbors community organization and Trinity Galewood Church, 1701 N. Narragansett Ave., held their first Need 2 Feed community outreach event on May 7, they didn’t advertise it much, so they didn’t expect many people to show. But 31 people did show up, and most of them came from right there in Galewood.
The idea came from Galewood Neighbors board member Wanda Gilmer, who owns the Fatso Hard Kitchen catering company and wanted to figure out the way to make sure the leftover food didn’t go to waste. After the discussions with the church, they decided to expand it to offer legal aid and mental health resources as well. The organizers decided to hold the event monthly on the first Saturday of the month, at 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., either outside or inside the church, until at least September 2023.
While the May turnout exceeded expectations, almost no one showed up in June. The organizers are taking the July off in hopes of spreading the word out ahead of the Aug. 6 meeting. They hope that the events will become community gathering spots that anyone would feel comfortable attending, because they didn’t want people’s worries to keep them from getting the help they need.
Steve Green, the chair of Galewood Neighbors, said that catering companies ending up with “excess food” wasn’t unusual. Gilmer brought the issue to Galewood Neighbors because she wasn’t sure the best way to handle that food. Trinity Galewood Church got involved because Galewood Neighbors member Chisoni Davis is in its congregation. In the ensuing discussions, the two organizations fleshed out the Need 2 Feed concept.
“[We thought] why don’t we create something really special, not just handing out food – which is important, educate a lot of people are food-insecure – but also other services, such as legal aid, counseling, nutrition advice,” Green said.
Those services came from professionals who lived in Galewood and volunteered their time.
Gilmer said that they had 50 meals ready to go. They handed out 31 of them. The remaining 19 were donated to the “Love Fridge” free food distribution points, with 10 going to the since-removed fridge in front of Hangry’s burger joint in Belmont-Cragin, at 5000 W. Fullerton Ave., and nine going to the one in front of North Lawndale’s Stone Temple Baptist Church, 3622 W. Douglas Blvd.
Green and Gilmer agreed that the impression they got was that most people who took the meals lived in Galewood. A few came from north and central Austin, and one came from the neighboring Montclare community. Gilmer emphasized that they didn’t impose any kind of geographic restrictions on the event – anyone who needs help is welcome to come.
“This event is for anyone in the community experiencing hardship, whether long-term or temporary,” Gilmer said.
The fact that they distributed as many meals as they did, Green said, even without much outreach, shows that there is a need in the community. And he was struck by the fact that, while most of their volunteers are young, the people getting service tended to be older.
“We were pleasantly surprised with the number of people that did show up, and we think it’s going to continue to grow as word gets out,” he said. “There’s food insecurity throughout Chicago, so there’s definitely a need.”
Since they got a few Spanish-speakers attending in May, Green said, they made a point of doing Spanish-language versions of the fliers going forward.
Gilmer said that they always envisioned Need 2 Feed as something that would evolve based on the residents’ needs. Over the next 3-6 months, they will survey the attendees and adjust their offerings based on feedback.
Gilmer said that they wanted Need 2 Feed events to be spaces where the community could gather and feel supported.
“There are oftentimes when people suffer, and, as human beings, they’re prideful,” she said. “We can be prideful, but, if we have a safe space, that’s a goal here – to provide a safe space for our community to come and be nurtured and nourished. And this not just food. We want them to be nurtured and nourished by our community.”
Anyone interested in volunteering for future Need 2 Feed events should contact Chisoni Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org. For this and other Galewood Neighbors events, visit https://galewoodneighbors.org/