It has been a year since the World Health Organization declared the Covid-19 virus a pandemic. Since then, many lost family members, jobs, and homes due to the virus. Not only have we experienced the trauma of living in a pandemic, but we have also seen an increase in hunger worldwide. Due to the loss of income, many have had to make difficult decisions, such as paying a bill or buying groceries to feed their families. Access to food in the Black community has been an ongoing issue.
In honor of Women’s History Month, we introduce two women who have been instrumental in ensuring members of their communities and the Chicago area have access to good, healthy foods year-round. Rev. Sandra Gillespie and Mrs. Monica Moss share their experiences of providing food to the Chicago area.
Rev. Sandra Gillespie and the Bread of Life Food Pantry
Rev. Sandra Gillespie serves as director of the Bread of Life Food Pantry of Chosen Tabernacle Ministries. The food pantry was founded 15 years ago and provides free food to over 150 people each week. Before the food pantry began, Chosen Tabernacle Ministries, pastored by her husband, Apostle Walter Gillespie, provided breakfast and lunch daily. Pastor Sandy recalled several of the neighborhood children would walk down to the church for breakfast and lunch. “I didn’t see them again until the next day,” she explained. She then realized that the children may not have food at home.
In 2006, the Greater Chicagoland Food Depository partnered with Bread of Life to provide fresh food for the community. Before long, the line to receive food was down the street. It was then that Pastor Sandy began studying food insecurity and food deserts and realized: 1. People are still hungry; and 2. People are still struggling – even before the pandemic. The Bread of Life food pantry is unique because it provides healthy food to the community and provides spiritual support. “We provide hope and encouragement to everyone; we treat everyone as human beings. Mercy and grace are distributed along with chicken and cornbread!” she shared. “Nurturing the community (with food) is both rewarding and fulfilling.”
The Bread of Life Food Pantry is at the Chosen Tabernacle Ministries Church, located at 4310 S. Champlain. Food distribution is on Mondays, from 4 pm-6 pm, and on Thursdays, from 1 pm – 3 pm.
Monica B. Moss – The Greater Chicago Food Depository
Monica B. Moss serves as the Chairman of the Board of The Greater Chicago Food Depository. She has worked tirelessly with faith-based leadership on food justice initiatives, including healthy food education, a farmers’ market, and an organic garden at her home church. Mrs. Moss shared, “Growing up in Virginia; I was surrounded by a family of farmers on both sides of my family. We always ate from the land. We had a garden, fruit trees, and vegetables that we grew and harvested.” Mrs. Moss added, “Access to food is a civil right; it is necessary that we build a system of social justice and equity around food, based on what is lacking in the Black communities and health disparities.”
In her work as Chairman of the Board of the food depository, Mrs. Moss is committed to ending hunger. “It is important that we deal with the underlying, systemic root causes of poverty and highlight the issues causing hunger and food insecurity,” she explained.
Mrs. Moss shared that since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a 50% increase in food insecurity for all people. For Blacks in Chicago, an 82% increase in food insecurity. “Covid has ‘ripped off the Band-Aid’ covering food insecurity. I am committed to the work of ending hunger by dealing with the underlying, systemic root cause of poverty,” she explains. “We must ensure that collaborative community-based efforts are at the forefront of the fight against hunger. We must engage in a holistic approach to food injustice, such as enrollment in SNAP benefits and mental health resources access. We should also remember to treat people with dignity and respect as they seek access to food.”
Finally, Mrs. Moss shared a quote by Audre Lorde, “There is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”
For information on the Greater Chicago Food Depository emergency food distribution dates, times, and locations, visit www.chicagosfoodbank.org.
Donna Hammond is a contributing writer and seminarian living in Chicago. Follow her on Twitter, @DeeLois623, and on Facebook, DeeLoisSpeaks.