Breakthrough Fresh Market food pantry in Chicago’s East Garfield Park neighborhood usually provides groceries to about 70 people a day, three times a week.
But since the coronavirus pandemic shuttered much of Chicago and the economy, the pantry has seen its numbers spike at least 25% in recent weeks. And officials expect that figure to rise over the next month.
Breakthrough operates numerous social service programs in Garfield Park, including homeless intervention services, anti-violence outreach and youth programming.
“If you can think about a program, we’re probably doing it,” said Yolanda Fields, Breakthrough’s chief program officer.
But like other social service organization across the city, the coronavirus has forced Breakthrough to adapt quickly in order to provide programs in the age of social distancing.
The Fresh Market pantry, for example, usually operates like a grocery store, allowing patrons to come inside and pick out products. But now, the pantry has shifted to curbside pickup.
The same goes for Breakthrough’s other programs.
“We’ve found some really innovate ways that our staff has been able to creatively use,” Field said. “We’re doing fitness videos, our preschool teachers are doing preschool videos … we have a homework helpline.”
Fields says they’ve also helped some of the families they work with to procure laptops so kids enrolled in Chicago Public Schools can participate in e-learning.