When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, Bronzeville-based organization Ignite had a hard time getting the food they needed for the young people that they serve.
“When stores began limiting quantities per purchase, we experienced challenges in obtaining enough food and other supplies. When most stores within the community were closed due to recent riots, our opportunities for obtaining food and other supplies were significantly diminished for our congregate living facility as well as our housed clients,” Ignite Director of Operations Brandi Ingram says.
The organization, which supports 14- to 24-year-olds experiencing homelessness, was able to overcome that challenge and others the pandemic brought with help from the University of Chicago’s COVID-19 South Side Community Support Initiative. Starting in late March, the University, in partnership with the Greater Chicago Food Depository, prepared and delivered 130 meals to Ignite’s residents and clients daily through June 12. As part of its second phase of the initiative, the University hired locally-owned catering companies to prepare Ignite’s meals which the University then delivered.
In addition to offering meals at a time when money is tight and large quantities of food were hard to come by, the initiative has allowed Ingram and her team to keep their residents and clients safer from the risk of COVID-19 infection, she says.
“The meals provide us with an opportunity to continue social distancing and follow the guidelines provided by the City and the CDC,” Ingram says. “We are able to provide already-prepared meals for residents to warm up at their leisure. We can reduce the amount of clients that are in our kitchen and dining space at the same time, yet still commune together over a meal.”
Working with the University and other local institutions, Ingram says, also allows Ignite to build important community relationships for the months of recovery still to come.
“Having a partner like the University of Chicago who is so well known in the community who we can utilize as a resource has been beneficial for us all the way around, not just for the meals but hopefully we can partner in other areas in the future,” she says.
For now though, Ingram says she and her team, and the young people they serve, are just grateful for some much needed help during a difficult time.
“With the meals,” Ingram says, “that’s one less thing we have to worry about.”