Chicago is now in its second wave of COVID-19 infections, and as the temperatures dip, residents hit hardest by the pandemic are going to need community assistance. And one way to do that is to support Chicago’s local food system.
In Illinois, more than 1.8 million people have filed unemployment claims since March through September, according to stats from the Illinois Department of Employment Security. Nearly 800,000 of those initial claims come from Cook County.
Health experts predict the number of novel coronavirus cases will continue to rise and that, invariably, will lead lawmakers to enact policies that restrict their constituents from leaving their homes. For not-for-profits, this makes collecting and distributing food and other goods more difficult. The need isn’t going away. Around the country, a network of mutual aid groups are working together to keep neighbors fed and deliver groceries to people at risk; chefs and bartenders are building pop-up pantries to provide meals and supplies to their fellow unemployed service industry workers; and citizens are working with local food rescues to make sure meat and produce get to the people who need it most. In this guide, Eater Chicago collected and organized resources for where to give, what to give, and how to volunteer in and around the Chicago area.
Editors have done their best to vet the charities included here, but it’s always important to make sure when you give money or time that the organization you’re supporting aligns with your values and has a transparent, proven track record. If you only have time or resources to give, give it, but monetary donations — especially those offered over an extended period — can be even more important because charities tend to know where the greatest need is. If you’ve chosen a group and aren’t sure what’s the best way to help, it’s worth reaching out to them and asking.
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Mutual Aid Groups
Mutual Aid Group are powered by volunteer efforts to fill niches in the community where traditional assistance has fallen short. In Chicago — like other areas of the county — volunteers have delivered meals, raised money, and collected much-needed supplies. Below are a few neighborhood groups:
33rd & 35th Ward Mutual Aid: A resource to connect residents living in Albany Park, Irving Park, Ravenswood Manor, Avondale, Logan Square, and Hermosa with volunteers who can provide mutual aid.
Chicago COVID-19 Mutual Aid Volunteer: A resource meant to help residents all over the city.
Chicagoland Available Childcare Workers During COVID-19: A spreadsheet meant to be used a resource for working parents in need of childcare.
Chinese Mutual Aid Society: A fund helping those in the Chinese immigrant community around Chicago.
Albany Park Mutual Aid: A fund helping Albany Park residents.
Avondale Mutual Aid Society: A fund helping the Northwest Side community.
Back of the Yards Family Assistance: A group of Chicago Public School teachers have bonded together raise money for the families of struggling students, including those who are undocumented.
Belmont Cragin Mutual Aid: Belmont Cragin Mutual Aid is part of a city-wide mutual aid effort, organized neighborhood by neighborhood to help residents during the pandemic.
Brighton Park Neighborhood Council Community Response: Organized by the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, the mission is to create a safer community, improve the learning environment at public schools, preserve affordable housing, provide a voice for youth, and protect immigrant rights.
Englewood’s Mothers Against Senseless Killings (MASK): MASK fights to end gun and gang violence in affected neighborhoods and strive for change by becoming a presence for families.
Farm, Food, Familias: Feeding Little Village, Englewood and South Chicago: The group delivers meals to families in Little Village, Englewood, and South Chicago.
Garfield Park Mutual Aid: A fund for neighbors of the Garfield Park community to offer skills, resources, supplies, space, and time to community members who are affected by COVID-19 and its most vulnerable residents.
Hermosa Mutual Aid: A fund for the neighbors of Hermosa, helping Latinx residents affected by COVID-19.
Humboldt Park Relief Fund: A mutual aid fund for residents living in Humboldt Park.
Irving Park Mutual Aid: A mutual aid fund for residents living in Irving Park.
Jefferson Park Mutual Aid: A mutual aid fund for residents living in Jefferson Park.
Kenwood Oakland Community Organization: Founded by religious and community leaders in 1965, this group helps needy families and residents.
Lawndale’s I Grow Chicago Coronavirus Response: A group formed to help grow Englewood, one of the city’s most vulnerable neighborhoods.
Little Italy COVID-19 Response: A fund to help the city’s hub for Italians living in Chicago.
Little Village Environmental Justice Organization Mutual Aid: Leadership development for the sustainable self-determination of Little Village was founded in 1994 to help school kids whose health was threatened by pollution. The group has become a champion for sustainable practices that help the environment.
Little Village Mutual Aid: A fund to help Little Village residents.
Logan Square Mutual Aid: A fund to help Logan Square residents.
Logan Square Neighborhood Association Solidarity Fund: LSNA is a community-based organization advancing diversity, leader development, and models for engagement as the catalyst for social justice.
North Lawndale Cares Mutual Aid: A fund to help North Lawndale residents.
Pilsen Vencera: A fund to help the Latinx residents living in Pilsen.
Rogers Park Community Response Team: From Northside Community Resources, the group provides social services to help vulnerable individuals and families get back on their feet after they have suffered a medical emergency, lost their jobs, lost their homes in a fire, or when seniors require intensive case management and small home repairs after they’ve fallen or gotten hurt in their homes.
Southside Together Organizing for Power: A group that builds the power of residents in Woodlawn and surrounding neighborhoods on the South Side of Chicago to impact the forces and decisions that affect their lives.
Southwest Side Undocumented Families Mutual Aid: Money from this fund will be deposited into an account managed by the Gage Park Latinx Council.
Uptown and Buena Park Support Network: A fund to help residents in Uptown and Buena Park deal with the pandemic.
West Ridge’s Devon Area Service Workers Fund: Organized by Chicago Desi Youth Rising, this fund is on the behalf of the Chicago Freedom School and designed to help the city’s South Asian community.
Westside Mutual Aid: A fund to help residents on Chicago’s West Side.
Woodlawn Market Box: A collaborative effort from Experimental Station, 61st and Blackstone, Star Farm Chicago, and others, this campaign hopes to bring bread, eggs, and more farm-produced food items to South Side residents.
Indo-American Center COVID-19 Emergency Support Fund: A group devoted to helping South Asians in Chicago; this fund raises money for those affected by the pandemic.
Many volunteer groups don’t have any problem finding help around the holidays, but COVID-19 has changed that landscape. There are few groups still seeking volunteers. A variety of opportunities are available.
My Block My Hood My City: This group is aimed at helping teens from under-resourced neighborhoods, showing them experiences and taking them on trips they wouldn’t normally be exposed to in hopes of enriching their lives.
Brave Space Alliance: Brave Space Alliance is the first Black-led, trans-led LGBTQ Center located on the South Side of Chicago, dedicated to creating and providing affirming, culturally competent, for-us by-us resources, programming, and services for LGBTQ individuals on the South and West sides of the city.
Chicago Bridge Project: The Chicago Bridge Project provides warm food and clothing for its most vulnerable neighbors.
GrowOp Chicago: Grow-Op Chicago is an urban agriculture advocacy group and seed-starting initiative based in Logan Square. Its mission is to increase the growing capacity of community gardens and farm projects in low-income communities and better connect people to their local food systems.
Growing Home: Based on an urban farm in Englewood, Growing Home combines time spent working on the on-site urban farm, with lessons on work readiness and environmental literacy, an emotional resilience curriculum, and ongoing support for career success post-graduation.
La Casa Norte: La Casa Norte helps youth and families experiencing homelessness.
State of Illinois: A group that helps improve Illinois communities by enhancing volunteerism and instilling an ethic of service.
Hunger Relief: Food Banks, Food Rescue, and Food Pantries
Food Banks, Food Rescues, and Distribution Organizations
Greater Chicago Food Depository: Chicago and Cook County’s food bank serves as a hub for a network of more than 700 food-assistance programs.
Grocery Run Club: A group of ex-restaurant workers who have inspired the community to provide groceries to underserved areas of Chicago.
Common Pantry: Common Pantry provided healthy food, kinship, and support.
Lakeview Pantry: Serving 15 neighborhoods, this pantry helps provide food for the most vulnerable in Chicago.
Irving Park Community Food Pantry: The Irving Park Community Food Pantry helps residents living in 60641 and western half of 60618 ZIP codes with a three-day supply of food in all food groups and offering additional services.
Ravenswood Community Services: A food pantry and community kitchen serving Ravenswood.
Chicago Hospitality Coalition: A group of well-known chefs — including Rick Bayless, Jason Hammel, and Stephanie Izard — that seek protections for independent restaurants grappling with the unknowns during the pandemic.
Block Club Chicago Hotline: A neighborhood news organization has started an English/Spanish hotline to answer questions about COVID-19 symptoms, governmental regulations, and more.
Worker and Restaurant Relief
Since the pandemic’s onset, several Chicago-area restaurants have organized efforts to feed the community. Many of these efforts are ongoing and also assist service industry workers.
Educational Foundation Restaurant Employee Relief Fund: A statewide program sponsored by the Illinois Restaurant Association that will award one-time $500 grants for restaurant workers affected by COVID-19. The money is intended to help cover living expenses like rent, food, and utilities during the pandemic.
One Fair Wage Emergency Fund: This is a way to support tipped and other service workers who’ve been struggling during the pandemic. Workers can apply on the website for financial assistance, and those looking to contribute directly can do so on the site as well.
Southern Smoke Foundation’s Chicago Restaurant Worker Relief Fund: The Chicago Restaurant Worker Relief Fund was created to help Chicago restaurant, bar and coffee shop workers who are experiencing hardship from the COVID-19 crisis. This fund will provide emergency relief grants based on need to these workers who have lost wages or employment due to the shutdown for the pandemic.