Chris Zorich’s voice cracks as he talks about his mother. More than 300 guests listen attentively during United Way of Metro Chicago’s April Food Day event. A native of the South Side of Chicago, our keynote speaker shares how, at five years old, he was lifted by his mom into a dumpster to dig for food.
“Anytime I’m in front of a crowd of folks who understand food insecurity and who understand what we have to do as a society to prevent issues like that, I get a good feeling,” said Chris Zorich, partner with Randall Partners, LLC, and a former player for the Chicago Bears. “The reason why we are here, why I am so thankful to United Way – it’s about making sure everybody regardless of your income, your race, everybody deserves a meal.”
The Southland community came together at the Tinley Park Convention Center on April 27 for April Food Day 2023. The annual food collection event and awards luncheon addresses food insecurity in the south-southwest suburbs of Chicago. Thanks to generous donors and 150+ volunteers, more than 90,000 pounds of food was collected and sorted. Ten local food pantries received the non-perishable food and household items, replenishing shelves in advance of the summer months when donations tend to wane – but the need remains.
“One in six families in Cook County have food insecurity,” said Hannah Hayes, vice chair of United Way’s South-Southwest Suburban Regional Board and senior vice president for Northern Trust. “In those households, 22% are children. April Food Day helps people feed their families, and that’s one of the most important things we can do.”
During April Food Day, United Way also honored our community leaders in the Southland for their partnership and commitment to supporting food security. The honorees were Bonita M. Parker, External Affairs Manager, South Region – ComEd, with the Community Leadership Award; Kellogg’s with the Business Leadership Award; and Cook County with the Game Changer Award.
Meanwhile, volunteers filled cardboard boxes with canned vegetables, bags of beans, cereal, and other non-perishable food before placing them next to a sign labeled with the name of a food pantry. By the end of the event, the hallway in the Tinley Park Convention Center was overflowing with stacks of boxes, all taped and ready to be distributed to 10 local partners: Blue Cap, Cornerstone Community Development Corporation, Governors State University, Orland Township, Respond Now, Restoration Ministries, Rich Township, St. Irenaeus, Thornton Township, and Together We Cope.
“My hope is that eventually there won’t be anybody who is food insecure in the south suburbs and everyone has a higher quality of life than they do now, especially in the Southland,” said Karen Vrdolyak, vice president of development & administration for Restoration Ministries.
It truly takes a village. Thank you to our South-Southwest Suburban Regional Board and to all our luncheon and food drive sponsors, individual donors, volunteers, community partners, and guests for making an impact through April Food Day 2023.
Check out April Food Day 2023 in the news:
April Food Day 2023 might be over – but the need remains. Help support food security for all our neighbors throughout the Chicago region. Join United Way and donate today.
Photo credit: Tate Samata