- Oct 21, 2019
A recent open meeting at the Chamber office updated the community on the progress that has been made to address food insecurity among Village residents. Organizers of Hunger Free Northbrook (HFN), including Chamber leaders and members, have implemented pilot programs to connect children and seniors in need with food resources. The Chamber has also facilitated relationships between the Northfield Township Food Pantry and corporate food service providers to funnel unused food to the Pantry.
Launched by Hunger Resource Network in 2018, HFN is an initiative to identify areas of need within the Village and seek concrete, community-based solutions. The program brings together businesses, educators, health care professionals, media, religious organizations, civic leaders, and others. Research conducted by the group revealed that nearly 10 percent of Northbrook residents are considered food insecure, with seniors and children being the most at-risk.
The recent community meeting discussed strategies taken to confront these problems. In one of its newest programs targeting children in need, HFN is partnering with Congregation Beth Shalom to provide food packs for a group of families from District 28’s Westmoor School. District 28 Superintendent Dr. Larry Hewitt, an active HFN participant, facilitated arrangements between Westmoor administration and families whose children qualify for free school lunches.
The HFN food packs provide eight shelf-stable meals each month to cover weekend lunches. This pilot program is a first step; school officials across districts estimate that over 400 Northbrook students are eligible for their schools’ free lunch programs. Meeting the needs of all these children outside school will require a wider network of partnerships.
HFN leaders also provided updates on programs that have evolved over the past year. Chamber Board Chairman Bob Caldwell, Hallmark Homecare, described how HFN provides rides to the Pantry and the Farmer’s Market for seniors at Crestwood Place, using a bus provided by the North Suburban YMCA. The program has helped seniors at Crestwood access over three tons of food over the past year. To expand its impact, HFN leaders are looking to identify additional clusters of seniors in need, as well as recruit more volunteer drivers.
To prevent good food from going to waste, Chamber President Tensley Garris has worked with Glenbrook Hospital, Medline, Allstate, and Northbrook Dairy Queen to arrange deliveries of excess food to the Food Pantry. These donations have a significant impact for the Pantry, which serves more than 500 local families in need. Other businesses with food service operations, as well as individuals hosting catered events, are encouraged to contact Tensley or Jill Brickman, Northfield Township Supervisor to discuss food donations.
According to HFN’s Henry Fetta, Dan Jariabka and Patti Marshman-Goldblatt, there are numerous ways for individuals to support the initiative’s goals. Volunteers are welcome at the Food Pantry, and HFN’s own committees can use assistance staffing programs, providing tech advice, and identifying model programs from other communities. To learn more, visit HungerFreeNorthbrook.org.