At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, grocery stores and pharmacies were virtually emptied by people preparing for lockdown. In the months since, store shelves have been restocked. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the food pantries that serve our neediest citizens.
Today, one in ten Americans does not have enough food. In Chicago, 17 percent of households are unable to pay for both food and other essential bills. Now more than ever, nutrition must be taken seriously as an important part in public health. A well-nourished population is a healthy population and high levels of food insecurity make all of us more vulnerable.
Zing Health has teamed with local food pantries, churches, and other not-for-profit groups to support and strengthen low-income families and other Cook County residents needing food and community resources. Zing Health recognizes the importance of social determinants of health such as food and economic stability in keeping individuals and communities healthy. Partnering with food pantries and federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) to educate senior populations helps to build better connections between food and health care.
Through a collaboration with Acumen America, a global nonprofit changing the way the world tackles poverty by investing in sustainable businesses, leaders and ideas, Zing Health is delivering $50,000 in grants to food pantries across Chicago, helping to feed those most affected by COVID-19—especially seniors.
“Acumen is a social impact investor who backed Zing Health in early funding rounds because of our social mission and the population groups we target, mainly African-American and Hispanic groups,” said Dr. Eric Whitaker, CEO of Zing Health. “Our food pantry partners are working hard to meet the need for food while protecting the public’s health.”
Acumen provided Zing with a $50,000 grant to distribute mini-grants to over 50 food pantries on the South and Westside of Chicago. The money is being allocated so that each of the Chicago metropolitan area and faith-based food pantries and FQHCs receive at least $750, with those organizations that serve a greater proportion of communities impacted by COVID-19 receiving a bit more.
One grant recipient, the Black United Fund of Illinois (BUFI), has distributed more than 10,000 meals during the pandemic through food banks and other charitable organizations. Carl West, chairman of the board, said Zing’s $2,000 grant will help continue BUFI’s mission to serve the Chicago community.
“The needs of our community are vast,” West said. “We have seen some dramatic incidents. The money we get from Zing is supporting our work in this area for those who have been dealt some serious blows during COVID-19.”
The program is estimated to ultimately impact more than 48,000 families in the Chicago metropolitan area.