Case Studies

Greater Chicago Food Depository

The Greater Chicago Food Depository is the largest and most comprehensive fooddistribution and community-services organization in the greater Chicago area. It provides roughly 75 million pounds of food each year to more than 800,000 people while also addressing the causes that lead to food insecurity through workforce development, advocacy, and benefits outreach.


The Food Depository works with more than 700 community partners in Cook County, Illinois, to help people struggling with hunger acquire sufficient food for them and their families. By partnering with food pantries, mobile food distributions, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and more, it supports a vast network of community organizations offering nutritious groceries and ready-to-eat meals. The organization is “on the front lines of making sure that the networks of community-based responders that are in every neighborhood and every part of Cook County have the supply of nutritious food that they need to give to our neighbors,” says Kate Maehr, its executive director and CEO. The Food Depository also works hard to bolster job opportunities through workforce development, which is, Maehr says, “the best anti-hunger program out there” because a stable income can help families create longer-lasting food security. To help create jobs, the organization has increased its partnership with Chicago’s Community Kitchens, a job-training and placement program that prepares un- or underemployed individuals, including those who have been involved in the criminal justice system, to work in restaurants and other commercial kitchens. The depository’s network of pantries and similar programs is responding to a 76 percent increase in need due to the effects of COVID-19. To ensure its network of community partners stays open during this time, in April 2020 it launched a $1 million community equity grant program. To address the increased demand in some of the most affected communities, it has also been partnering with faith-based organizations to operate pop-up distributions on Chicago’s South and West Sides.


In 2019, the organization delivered 62.4 million meals, or more than 170,000 meals each day, serving people from all walks of life, from school children to older adults, and from working individuals to retired veterans. Fresh produce made up almost 38.5 percent of all the food it gave away, which has a ripple effect that goes far beyond hunger. “If we can connect somebody with nutritious food,” Maehr says, “not only does it meet a basic need, it can also have an impact on everything from their emergency-room usage to the likelihood that their children will be able to read by the age of 6, to their life expectancy.” The Food Depository also saw success with its job-training program. In 2019, 90 percent of its graduates found employment in the hospitality industry. In total, more than 1,300 participants have graduated from the program.

How The Satter Foundation Has Helped

The Satter Foundation has supported the Food Depository for a number of years, which has been critical to helping it continue and focus its work. “The foundation’s investment has made it possible for us to be on the front lines to make sure our neighbors have the food they need and the opportunity to dream and thrive,” says Maehr.

What's Next

The organization is expanding its workforce-training program to include warehouse operations, food transportation, and front-of-house management. It has also partnered with Starbucks to train and create a pipeline of baristas and food-service employees and with the University of Illinois in Chicago to implement a nutrition-education program, which it will house in a new state-of-the-art facility. As Maehr says, “Our goal is to put ourselves out of business—to create bridges to strategies that make it so that people don’t need to go to a food pantry.”

More Case Studies

Learn more about some of our impactful grantees.