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Chicago’s largest food bank plans $50 million expansion on Southwest Side

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It will help the organization deliver more meals to elderly folks who can’t leave their homes

AP

The Greater Chicago Food Depository has plans to build a new $50 million facility—one that will help them cook and deliver more meals to a coming boom of elderly baby boomers in their homes. The expansion will add on to its headquarters in Archer Heights.

“It’s a major undertaking but we’ve looked at census projections and it shows a growing number of lower-income older adults—as much as 48 percent by 2030,” said Greg Trotter, a spokesman for the Food Depository. “It’s pretty alarming, so we’re seeing that need and responding to it.”

The ambitious project, which was submitted for approval to the Chicago City Council on Wednesday, calls for a 40,000-square-foot meal preparation kitchen to be built on land adjacent to its 268,000-square-foot headquarters. The food bank purchased the vacant lot from BNSF Railway in December 2018 for $3.6 million.

A rendering of a complex with green grass and a white one-story building.
An initial rendering of the expansion plans.
Rendering by Partners by Design

A second structure will connect the kitchen expansion with the existing headquarters and contain a nutrition education center and a community cafe. Also planned: a half-acre garden run by a yet-to-be-named urban gardening partner organization. The garden will grow fresh produce to be cooked in the kitchen and used in meals.

The food depository has already been granted permission to build over Keeler Avenue to expand the campus but still needs approval from the city to get a zoning change on the lot currently designated as industrial. Later, the City Council must give their stamp of approval.

What’s also required is a significant amount of fundraising from philanthropic partners to help foot the $50 million bill. If all goes well, the project could break ground as early as the spring of 2020 and operations may begin by mid-2021.

The expansion is necessary, according to Trotter, so that the food bank can prepare approximately 4 million meals a year—many of which will be delivered directly to homes of those in need.

“There’s an unmet need for older adults and disabilities who have a hard time getting meals from a food depository,” said Trotter. “If you can’t leave your house, it doesn’t do you much good.”