Blog

July 31st, 2015

Alex UW-Madison Move InThe summer is passing by way too quickly. It seems like we just moved our daughter’s “stuff” home from college and she is already preparing her list of additional “stuff” to bring back to college! It was easier when her school supply list consisted of 8 markers, 4 glue sticks, 10 No. 2 pencils, 4 pens (including 1 red pen), 5 folders, 5 spiral notebooks, a ruler, a protractor and a compass. Now the list includes a microwave, single-serve coffeemaker, and a 5×7 rug. We are fortunate that as electronics continue to improve, the cost continues to decrease. When microwaves first came out (yes, I do remember that day), my family paid nearly $500 for an extremely heavy, large version of the new timesaver device. Now, you can get an efficient smaller microwave for $50. On move-in day, we will make our usual stop at the local Walmart to pick up miscellaneous food items that she can prepare in her efficient microwave.

Abundant fresh produce at a farmers marketThe increase in food prices is partially due to the additional indecipherable ingredients that are added to enhance the flavor and “nutritional value” of the item. If our daughter’s dorm was near a grocery store, she could purchase nutritional food items with one real ingredient such as lettuce, pears, bananas, and strawberries. With lack of transportation, her choices are limited. Out of convenience, many families choose less nutritious, higher-priced food items from stores closer to their home.

Recently, I read an editorial in the Chicago Tribune’s “Speak Out” column from an anonymous tyrant who couldn’t comprehend why people have children if they can’t afford to feed them. Seriously? Most people struggle at some time in their life and when this happens, Loaves & Fishes is there to offer support both emotionally and physically. At Loaves & Fishes, we are able to provide fresh produce, meat and dairy along with a wide assortment of other food items to families who are struggling to put food on their table. Our son lives in Washington, DC and our daughter will be heading back to school soon; I will always worry about them, but I know they have the tools to survive any situation they might encounter.

MadisonmarketSo until the end of October, our daughter will continue her weekly ritual of hunting for fresh produce and other items at the local Farmer’s Market. Maybe she should take a lesson from the native squirrel and start preparing for the inevitable winter hibernation. Although, with all of the “hiding” places in her dorm room, she may not be able to locate her hidden “treasure” let alone a No. 2 pencil!

Diane Ramonas, Donor Relations Officer

To read volunteer Sue Swedler’s amazing response to this editorial by clicking here.

July 29th, 2015

As I’m spreading the word about Loaves & Fishes’ Concert to End Hunger, people assume I don’t know who Harry Chapin is. I was not around to buy his albums when they were first released and I never saw him live in concert. He died when I was a 1-year-old.

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 This weekend I’m going to an alumni reunion at the YMCA camp I went to as a child. It is also the place I started my working life at 16 and stayed with clear through college. The YMCA taught me the vital impact of children and families having access to recreation, summer camp, swim lessons —whether they can pay for it or not. They are the reason I entered and stayed in non-profit human service work. Harry Chapin was a standard on the mix tapes made to memorialize each summer. He is big in the camp songbook. We even used “Flowers Are Red” in our annual staff training curriculum. Harry’s Greatest Stories Live was among the first CD’s I ever owned. When I joined the staff of Loaves & Fishes last September and I was told we were thinking of doing a Steve Chapin Band concert, I felt a knowing and rejoicing in my heart’s memory. Perfect.

Harry Chapin’s songs tell the stories of people. The story of fatherhood, loneliness, falling in love, old love long past, what happens to children, how people dream… He gives us those moments we know in our hearts as the truth of the human condition. It’s emotional.

Celebrities often get behind charitable causes and social justice efforts. Sometimes it’s not sincere or impressive, but in Harry’s case, it is. Harry Chapin gave an estimated $6 million to charity during his lifetime. Hunger relief was his life mission. You can hear it on that live track where declares, “There’s enough food on this planet to feed everyone twice over” and powerfully questions, “Why, why, why are people hungry?”

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The Harry Chapin Foundation continues to support organizations today that help people become self-sufficient. I think Harry would be pleased to know that his life work continues, but he would also be very sad to know that it has had to continue. People are still hungry.

During his lifetime, Harry also founded WhyHunger, an organization that still exists to build a broad-based social movement to end hunger. Their core values speak of the understanding that solutions and innovation are often found in the grassroots. Where Loaves & Fishes sits, this is a daily truth.

What we cycle through every day at Loaves & Fishes is what changes the world. Recovering the wasted food from our community and getting it to those who need it is part of this solution. The conversations we have with every client now, through our Client Engagement Model is an innovation that changes the face of hunger relief. If our ideas change the way we do things, and others do things, it is grassroots change. I’m so happy I have arrived here at Loaves & Fishes to see it happen.

On September 19th, I will also be happy to hear Harry Chapin’s music live, from the closest thing I will ever get to the real thing. All my life’s a circle, too.

Miranda Barfuss, Special Events Manager

July 24th, 2015

550441_10150870991795583_715895780_nAfter reading some recent articles in regards to hunger, one topic that I’m seeing come up more frequently in conversations is veterans and the crisis they are experiencing with hunger and poverty. We hear conversations through news outlets about veterans experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, military suicides, addiction, and other traumas that war has brought upon men and women. While not everything is solved, I do believe that progress has been made throughout the country to address challenges our veteran population is experiencing. However, one problem that I believe is largely hidden, nor discussed, is the poverty and hunger veterans experience on a daily basis.

According to Feeding America, food insecurity affects a lot of military families – as many as one in four. The organization’s annual report states that “20 percent of families served by its food banks and pantries include someone who has served in the U.S. military and 25 percent of the households who seek food assistance from the Feeding America network include an active-duty service member.” I had no idea this problem exists as it does; I assumed veterans received financial assistance when returning home after serving in a war. I believed, at the minimum, that veterans received a stipend that would at least keep them above the poverty line.

309977_10150870989215583_1273997781_nReading more into this crisis, I learned that financial hardships come from a lack of professional experience, unemployment or underemployment of military spouses, reduced income after deployments, inexperience with financial literacy, and frequent moves, according to the National Military Family Association. Food insecurity doesn’t just exist in a certain population or environment, hunger touches those who have or are currently serving as well.

For example, in Linn County, Iowa (where many veterans reside), 16,000 of the county’s 215,000 residents are veterans. Their food pantry reported serving more than 3,400 veterans in just a 12 month period. That’s approximately 283 veterans receiving monthly food assistance. That’s a crisis, an epidemic and an indicator of a serious problem in our country. It’s not just from lack of working because many of them do work. The pay scale for enlisted active duty service members is not enough to provide for a family. Many struggle to find jobs that pay more than the minimum wage because of their lack of experience. What’s the solution? Perhaps we should consider increasing the pay scale for service members, designating more community programs to help veterans acquire employment to care for their families, and/or creating more education avenues specifically for veterans.

Flag CeremonyWe should not take for granted those who fight for our freedom. We as a country have failed to hold our part of the agreement by not providing them with the basic necessities. At Loaves & Fishes, our veteran population is smaller than what research shows from other counties and states; however, for those we do serve, I ensure we are providing the resources necessary to integrate these heroes back into society. We are working closely with the Veterans Assistance Commission of DuPage County that informs the local veteran population about Loaves & Fishes and the services we provide. It is a priority of ours to help these individuals and their families, so if you know any local veteran families in need, please inform them of Loaves & Fishes.

I once heard a wise man say, “We have money for war but can’t feed the poor.” Food isn’t a privilege, it’s a right! How do you think we, as a society, can better serve our veterans?

Duncan Ward, Director of Empowerment Programs

July 16th, 2015

Loaves & Fishes Community Services has welcomed new leaders to assist us in achieving our strategic objectives and to continue alleviating poverty in the western suburbs of Chicago. At Day Without Hunger in June, Megan Selck, Loaves & Fishes’ President & CEO, spoke of transformation in reference to our new grocery market layout, our Client Engagement Model and our Share the Joy volunteer movement.

“I am excited for what lies ahead for Loaves & Fishes,” said Selck. “We have seen so much progress over the past year through our programs and our community partnerships. To continue this forward momentum, we have added more depth to our board and staff.”

L&F Board Members Alicia McCareins, Laura Ann Spencer, David Brown and Brian Bolliger gather at John Greene Realtor's Polo Event

L&F Board Members Alicia McCareins, Laura Ann Spencer, David Brown and Brian Bolliger gather at John Greene Realtor’s Polo Event

Mike Havala, President and Founder of GoldTree Capital Advisors, will lead Loaves & Fishes’ Board of Directors as the new chair. Peggy Beata served as board chair for the past year. Havala has been a stalwart supporter of Loaves & Fishes, helping secure the purchase of 1871 High Grove Lane in 2011, which allowed Loaves & Fishes to dramatically expand our programs over the past 4 years. He will be joined by Dr. Alicia McCareins, Founder & CEO of Research, Evaluation & Consulting Associates, LLC, who will serve as Vice Chair of Governance; Paul Novotny, retired former Chairman & CEO at The New York Blower Company, who will serve as Vice Chair of Finance; David Brown, Vice President of Commodity Price & Risk Management at Mondelez International, who will serve as Vice Chair of Advancement; Kevin O’Hara, Private Wealth Advisor-Business Financial Advisor at Ameriprise Financial, who will serve as Treasurer; and Celeste Wagner, owner of C•SAW Marketing Group and owner of Aurelio’s Pizza locations in Naperville and Woodridge, who will serve as Secretary.

Loaves & Fishes’ also welcomed the addition of George Kestler, retired former President & CEO at Americall Group, Inc.; Corey Schmidt, Wealth Advisor at Thrivent Financial; Laura Ann Spencer, Executive Vice President at Perma-Seal; and Kathy Van Eeuwen, Attorney. For a full listing of our current board, click here.

IMG_2349In addition to our board growth, Loaves & Fishes hired LaVerne Mathews as the Director of Advancement. Mathews has worked in a variety of positions in fund development for such organizations in Chicago as La Rabida Children’s Hospital, Holy Trinity High School, Family Christian Heath Center and Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago. Her experience in researching and successfully securing financial support for non-profit organizations spans over 15 years.

“I love the basic message of Loaves and Fishes’ mission, ‘to end hunger in our community,'” explains Mathews when asked what drew her to Loaves & Fishes. “I look forward to working with area businesses, community partners and individuals to help further this mission.”

July 15th, 2015

July 10th, 2015

July 9th, 2015

July 9th, 2015

Giving Garden 3I confess that my gardening experience is more limited than I would like, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m a huge fan of those talents. Gardening is a great hobby with an unmistakable benefit for those who take it on: food with flavor. Produce straight from the garden has a magic for kids, too. They might even want to try that pepper!

That’s why I’m so impressed with the green-thumbers who plan and manage the Giving Garden behind the Mondelez plant on Ogden Ave. The Master Gardeners from the University of Illinois Extension have been watching over the garden since 2010, and the results have been amazing. From radishes, tomatoes, and basil to the peppers, green beans and lettuce, we’ve seen a beautiful harvest. Did I mention that all the produce from this garden is donated directly to Loaves & Fishes and passed along to our community families in need? Last year, that donation included over 600 pounds of fresh organic produce of all kinds. Bring it on!

Giving Garden 2015I love how Sue Schlesinger shares her expertise and the latest gardening tips with those who are interested. It has been an education for me and for many of the visitors at Loaves & Fishes. Who knew that sweet potato greens are the latest “thing” in the veggie world? I’m just getting used to kale myself. And not only that, the Master Gardeners are growing these sweet potatoes in containers, so those of us with limited acreage have very few excuses. Take a look at this information on the nutritional and medicinal benefits of sweet potatoes from Sue. If you weren’t interested before, you should be now!

What does this fantastic food mean to someone who might be coming to Loaves & Fishes? It means that “I can give my family healthy food choices, even foods that I normally wouldn’t have been able to buy when I was working.” It means that “I don’t have to worry about dealing with my health issues every day.” It means “I can teach my kids about healthy foods.”

Giving Garden Sweet PotatoSometimes it means everything. Hope you have a great time growing your own summer fun.

Jane Macdonald
Associate Director of Community Health

Read more about Sue and the Giving Garden by clicking here!

July 4th, 2015

“It takes a village to raise a child,” said Megan Selck, Loaves & Fishes’ President and CEO.

Family life and services are primary focuses to Loaves & Fishes, making every volunteer, donation and contribution a positive difference maker.

IMG_2316A new addition to our cause is Sammy Hager, front man of The Circle and a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, who presented Loaves & Fishes with a $2,500 contribution before taking the main stage at the Exchange Club of Naperville Ribfest.

Hagar’s donation, made possible through The Hagar Family Foundation, will ensure that substantial and healthy meals are provided for families in relation to our Children Nutrition Initiative, which has been expanded to include children, aged 0-4 and expectant mothers.

“I am honored to be standing alongside Sammy Hagar in our fight against child hunger,” said Selck, “and I want to thank Dave Brown, Loaves & Fishes’ Board Member, for initiating and coordinating this partnership opportunity.”

The Exchange Club of Naperville Ribfest, held Fourth of July weekend in Knoch Park, brings in musical talent, food and beverage vendors and lots of family fun including Independence Day fireworks each year.

11401526_10153363724771211_8564519316672275146_n“Loaves & Fishes has a long history of volunteering at Ribfest to support the Exchange Club’s national program of preventing child abuse,” said Shelly Schmitz, Director of Volunteer Engagement at Loaves & Fishes.

With over 75 Loaves & Fishes volunteers ranging from ages 35 to 81 sent to help at Ribfest, we are able to connect with our community and give back in more ways while enjoying a Naperville tradition.

“We are grateful for the support of the Exchange Club as they allocate some of their profits to our cause every year. Long live Ribfest!” said Schmitz.

June 25th, 2015