Group delivers free meals in neighborhoods hit hard by COVID-19

The Farm, Food, Familias project delivered 100 meals to residents in Englewood, South Shore and Little Village.

SHARE Group delivers free meals in neighborhoods hit hard by COVID-19
Chef Roberto Pérez, founder of Urban Pilón, poses for a portrait as he prepares food for the Farm, Food, Familias (Granja, Comida, Familia) project in the kitchen of his Austin neighborhood home, Wednesday morning, May 13, 2020. The project aims to deliver hot, free meals in areas hardest hit by COVID-19, including Englewood, South Shore and Little Village.

Chef Roberto Pérez, founder of Urban Pilón, prepares food Wednesday for the Farm, Food, Familias (Granja, Comida, Familia) project at his home in the Austin neighborhood.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

A pair of local chefs and urban farmers have partnered to deliver hot meals to areas hit hard by COVID-19 on the South and Southwest sides.

The Farm, Food, Familias project, launched three weeks ago, will cook and deliver meals to people living in Englewood, South Shore and Little Village.

These neighborhoods have seen their confirmed COVID-19 cases balloon over the past several weeks. Little Village has had 2,166 positive COVID-19 cases, South Shore with 586 cases and Englewood with 388.

The delivery of weekly meals is an initiative created by Getting Grown Collective and the Little Village Environment Justice Organization. Each meal is prepared by chef Roberto Pérez, founder of Urban Pilón, and chef Fresh Roberson, founder of Fresher Together.

The project, which was received well by the community, has raised $8,000 in donations and has doubled the number of people it will feed. Last week it delivered to 50 people; Wednesday, it delivered to 100 people.

The group plans to deliver hot meals for at least the next six weeks. Donations will determine if it can continue.

“There is a sense of resilience that exists in our communities, but I was still surprised about how robust the outreach was to help us do what we are doing,” said Taryn Randle, founding member of Getting Grown Collective. “I wasn’t expecting the amount of donations we received and being able to double the amount of meals we make in just a week.”

Randle said they are using fresh produce grown at Sweet Water Foundation, 5749 S. Perry Ave. The goal is to cook home-grown food for people in need.

Feeding people is more important than ever with COVID-19 looming over communities, Randle said.

“This is an important way to check in with people that we know are compromised by the virus and people that are living alone,” Randle said. “It’s a way to make sure people are eating and to make sure they are good — a holistic way of responding to this new normal.”

Chef Roberto Pérez, founder of Urban Pilón, poses for a portrait outside his Austin neighborhood home, where he prepares food for the Farm, Food, Familias (Granja, Comida, Familia) project, Wednesday morning, May 13, 2020. The project aims to deliver hot, free meals in areas hardest hit by COVID-19, including Englewood, South Shore and Little Village.

Chef Roberto Pérez, founder of Urban Pilón, outside his home in the Austin neighborhood.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Pérez said he couldn’t turn down an opportunity to cook meals for people most in need and is excited to see the project growing.

“A lot of the people we are making meals for have family members that have been affected by COVID-19 or they are now out of a job,” Pérez said. “We want to make sure we’re feeding people nutritious food during this difficult time.”

Pérez and Roberson each cook 50 meals at their homes. This week Pérez is making a soup that has ginger, kale, garlic rice and chicken. Roberson is making a curry lentil soup.

The meals will then be driven to the homes of people in need and dropped off without any contact.

“The communities we are feeding are at the height of this epidemic, and there is already an issue of access to healthy food there,” Roberson said. “So this is our one little piece to help those people who are in need.”

Manny Ramos is a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of issues affecting Chicago’s South and West sides.

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