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State, Greater Chicago Food Depository to Spend Additional $4M on Meals for Migrants; City to Take Over Next Year
State, Greater Chicago Food Depository to Spend Additional $4M on Meals for Migrants; City to Take Over Next Year
Apr 15, 2024 1:48 PM

Work is underway at a base camp for migrants in Brighton Park on Nov. 28, 2023. (WTTW News)Work is underway at a base camp for migrants in Brighton Park on Nov. 28, 2023. (WTTW News)

With funding running short to feed asylum-seekers, state taxpayers and philanthropists will spend $4 million on meals for migrants for the remainder of the calendar year.

Illinois and the Greater Chicago Food Depository will each spend $2 million, on top of $10.5 million the state has spent thus far on a contract with the depository to provide meals to migrants.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration cites “procurement delays” by Chicago as the reason for the shortfall, and says that the city in January will assume the responsibility of making sure migrants are fed, according to a news release.

Someone with knowledge of the situation said the state and food bank’s stepping up in December gives Chicago an extra month to “cobble” together a procurement solution. January is also when the city’s new fiscal year begins.

The new investment from the state and food bank comes as work is underway to develop sites for as many as 2,200 migrants currently campaign out at police stations and the O’Hare airport.

The state’s contract with GardaWorld, which is tasked with building and running the soft-shelter camp in Brighton Park and to convert an old CVS store in Little Village to serve as a shelter, will cover meals for six months from the time migrants move, said a spokesperson with the Pritzker administration.

According to data from the city of Chicago from late November, at least 23,000 migrants have arrived in Chicago since August 2022, many originally from Latin American who were then sent to Illinois by bus from Texas in what Pritzker said is a partisan motivated attempt by Texas’s Gov. Greg Abbott to put an albatross of caring for the migrants onto cities and states run by Democrats.

In a written statement, Pritzker said that Illinois won’t let migrants go hungry, despite the “absence” of “resources and coordination” from the federal government.

Greater Chicago Food Depository Director Kate Maehr said the food bank will continue to serve “anyone in need.”

“The Greater Chicago Food Depository believes food is a basic human right. It is a privilege to provide daily meals for asylum seeking new arrivals in our community while continuing our work of serving anyone in need of food across Chicago and Cook County,” she said.

The collaboration with the Greater Chicago Food Depository began as soon as migrants started arriving en masse, but formalized this year, the state said, with the depository providing “daily lunch and dinner, fresh fruit, breakfast items, and hygiene essentials at shelters and police stations across Chicago.”

The funding for that comes from both private donors and the state.

The Pritzker administration’s press release touts that effort as positive for Chicagoans and a “model to address hunger while also guiding funds and resources to neighborhoods that have endured historic disinvestment” given that the food depository contracts with “15 minority-owned restaurants and caterers based in neighborhoods across Chicago” to supply “up to 20,000 nourishing and culturally affirming meals each day.”

Critics, including some members of the Chicago City Council, Republicans in the state legislature and groups of Chicago residents – in particular those close to the temporary shelters – have vocally protested the money being poured into caring for migrants, given existing and longstanding financial needs, particularly in primarily Black neighborhoods.

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter:@AmandaVinicky

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