In 2012, CCO shelter residents were served over 80,456 meals. Also, over 19,500 bags of food left CCO to help feed our neighbors in need. Through our Dinner Guest Program 5,200 meals were served to food-insecure Chicagoans in the CCO dining room.
The following is an article about our Food Bag Program-
The early-morning line for food stretches down the sidewalk. Person after person after person is holding a bag or leaning on a small food cart. The food program is about to begin and standing in the winter breeze is not an option. Chris Ramsey and his clutch of faithful volunteers usher everyone in early to have a seat in the heated dining room. Grandmothers, military veterans, unemployed adults, a rainbow of ethnicities wait patiently to shop through the options at the front of the line.
The volunteers have been busy for hours inside the building, unloading a small mountain of boxes containing canned goods, boxed foods, breads, frozen meats, cereal, fruits and vegetables. Some are part of a visiting group and many are folks who have been helped by the food pantry in the past. This is their way of giving back.
Chris Ramsey, who manages the food program, is hauling boxes of frozen meat out of the kitchen and arranging them at the end of the long table of food choices. Chris has been doing this for years. He checks with his volunteers, kindly tapping a few of them on the shoulder, and tosses a quick hello and wave to familiar pantry attendants. Long tables have been arranged in an L shape for the food line. A variety of foods are dropped into bags as the people make their way down the line. Everything is ready and now the shopping has begun.
At the CCO food bag program each person is able to select what they need from the options before them, and every week different foods are available. It is nice to give people a choice to accept or decline certain foods. What one person may not like, another might be anxious to take home. It’s a system that works at CCO and people seem to be happy with it.
Chris Ramsey estimates that nearly 150 households are able to take multiple bags of food home from Cornerstone each week. It’s clear that Chris is glad to know people are being fed and, hopefully, not having to choose between medication and dinner or rent and groceries.
The food bag program started over 20 years ago, giving out powered milk, margarine and potatoes. It’s amazing to see how it’s grown into a program that provides for hundreds of our neighbors. It’s also encouraging to see the heart and soul that goes into this major event each week.