Blog

June 29th, 2016

A note from our Interim President/CEO, Mike Havala

Thank you for your support of Loaves & Fishes. You have helped us evolve and expand our mission as well as benefit more of our neighbors with impactful programs. I am excited to share with you today that our organization has reached the next chapter in its 32 year history by formally entering into an agreement to combine forces with our friends at Naperville CARES. Effective July 1st, Naperville CARES will permanently partner with Loaves & Fishes. This alliance represents a major step for both organizations: we have created strong program models in our respective areas and will now integrate resources and programs to provide an elevated level of excellence in service to the community.

This combination supports the roadmap created in our 3-year strategic plan in very tangible ways:

  • More comprehensive and immediate resource for client needs
  • Less agency “waiting time” for clients
  • Convenience for clients and referrals to CARES programs and vice-versa
  • Elimination of duplicate processes and services
  • Ability to increase thorough client follow up to optimize the level of care offered

Our expectation is that more clients will eventually be served, as Naperville CARES’ programs will be readily accessible to current Loaves and Fishes clients and vice versa.

Our combined entity will be called Loaves & Fishes Community Services. The Naperville CARES emergency assistance and car program will be integrated with all non-food services currently offered by our organization and renamed the Loaves & Fishes CARES Programs. As Chairman of the Board and Interim CEO, I will lead the combined organizations in a dual capacity until a permanent CEO is named. Janet Derrick, the current Executive Director of Naperville CARES, will become the Vice President of Loaves & Fishes CARES Programs, and we will welcome the two other Naperville CARES’ employees to our team. Four members of the Naperville CARES Board will join our Board of Directors

Through this partnership, we will be better positioned as a key leader in the non-profit community. We are grateful to our “Double Friends” who have supported both organizations individually and look forward to continuing our relationship as a unified organization. We will be providing more information as more details are worked out in the weeks ahead.

Sincerely,

Mike Havala

Chairman of the Board and Interim CEO

Read more:

Chicago Tribune/Naperville Sun

Positively Naperville

Daily Herald

February 8th, 2016

Dear Friends,

Thank you so much for your generosity and dedication in 2015; a year that saw significant progress in connecting low-income individuals and families to the resources they need to thrive. Over 4,600 families received assistance over the past year, and, through the Client Engagement Model, we have experienced great success in finding sustainable solutions for them. You have been a crucial part of this success by helping Loaves & Fishes complete our Power of Community Campaign, raising over $6.8 million since January 2013 in the fight against local food insecurity and poverty.

I’m writing to you because I recently learned that my husband is being transferred for work to St. Louis, so our family will be moving in March, and I will be stepping down as President & CEO. When I joined the Loaves & Fishes team in September 2012, I never imagined the impact a local “food pantry” could have on a person’s life, but I quickly learned that Loaves & Fishes was so much more to our clients. Launching the Power of Community Campaign allowed me to showcase our mission to new audiences – many of whom didn’t realize poverty and food insecurity were issues in DuPage County – and engage with long-time supporters who have seen our services expand throughout the years to benefit more people in need. It made each day exciting, yet humbling, and I will miss all of you – the true champions of Loaves & Fishes’ mission.

Our Board of Directors has already begun the search process for the next leader of the organization, and I am confident they will find an individual that shares your passion for helping our neighbors. All of our services will continue during this transition period thanks to the strong backbone you have helped us create, so Loaves & Fishes can carry on the mission without missing a beat.

Thank you, again, for having such a profound impact on the community through Loaves & Fishes and on me.

Kindly,

Megan K. Selck

February 2nd, 2016

December 17th, 2015

Not long ago, in the Fall issue of SHARE, we introduced you to a new screening tool, the Hunger Vital Sign™, that we think holds great value to our community. The Hunger Vital Sign™ can help us spot families at risk for food insecurity, a serious enemy of public health.

CaptureLoaves & Fishes has been introducing this screening tool to the medical community over the last few months. Dr. Timothy Wall, a prominent pediatrician in our community, has been using the Hunger Vital Sign™ during the check-in process for his patients. He has allowed us to get a first glimpse of how this tool might be used in an effective and meaningful way. The staff in Plainfield, Naperville, Bolingbrook, and West Chicago, recently shared the results of their screenings over the first month. Surprisingly, responses showed that from 10% to as many as 60% of the screened patients were struggling to put healthful meals on the table. Dr. Wall’s staff was able to respond immediately with information about Loaves & Fishes and other resources in our area. Several clients were offered vouchers to enable them to come to Loaves & Fishes even though they live outside our immediate service area. We are hopeful that Dr. Wall will be able to use this information internally as well in considering best treatments for these patients. Maybe just an apple a day will keep the doctor away.

We are thankful to have the opportunity to meet with members of our medical community to build awareness of food insecurity in our area, and offer this powerful screening tool. It’s as easy as asking two questions! Stay tuned as we continue to spread the word about the Hunger Vital Sign™.

December 17th, 2015

Yes, it’s the season to eat your way through plates of Christmas cookies, and laugh out loud at the ugly Christmas sweaters. I personally think it’s just fine, even important, to set aside some of our dietary convictions and enjoy the festivities – with all the cookies and desserts they bring. I always make a quiet promise to myself to get back on track with the start of the New Year, even if it is getting harder to zero out those calories. But staying on a healthy diet is tough business when the money is tight, and even tougher if you suffer with a chronic illness like diabetes, high blood pressure, or depression. Alexander Senetar reminded me of that this year when, a few days ago, I received his preliminary findings on the overall health of our clients.

ObservationsAlexander is an outgoing and committed med student at Midwestern University, who came to Loaves & Fishes over a year ago with a request to take a closer look at the development of chronic diseases among families strapped with food insecurity. We were happy to work with Alexander, and interested to know if our “suburban” populations were facing the same chronic illnesses often associated with long-term, food insecure families from more financially depressed communities. The results are in, and even though it’s Christmas, they’re not so merry and bright.
Armed with surveys, Alexander started asking questions last summer. He asked our clients about their health concerns and overall eating habits. Of the 203 adults at Loaves & Fishes who completed his survey,
• 16% had asthma
• 16.2% had type 2 diabetes (almost twice the state average of 8.5%)
• 30% had high blood pressure
• 23% had depression
• 76.8% were overweight or obese (note: height and weight was self reported)

L2N_7926Wow. With all of those red flags on the field, it’s hard to know where to begin. But Alexander had a plan to take some next steps. He wanted to test the effectiveness of brief nutritional programs which promote changes in lifestyle and eating habits that would benefit our clients. We were encouraged because in our previous attempts at nutrition education, we found that tabletop discussions in our client waiting area will often draw as many as 30 to 40 curious visitors when, in a classroom setting, we might have 6-10 visitors. It’s just a table planted in our client waiting area, loaded with food samples and a few well-chosen nutrition messages, but our hunch was that they deserved more attention than their low-key presence would suggest. It’s a very casual, “water cooler” approach to nutrition education, but it can pack a punch.

Happily, Alexander agrees. In fact, his follow-up surveys indicate that even brief nutritional programs like these can result in significant improvements in eating habits. That combination of healthy encouragement and the availability of healthy choices is vital to those who are managing chronic illnesses.

Thanks, Alexander, for helping us to realize the value of a friendly one-on-one conversation, as well as the need for them. I am guessing that Alexander will one day be a stand-out member of our medical professional community. For the full version of Alex’s findings, click here.

Jane Macdonald, Associate Director of Community Health

December 17th, 2015

The first year of the Client Engagement Model has taught us many things in regards to suburban poverty. There’s a belief that if you live in the suburbs, even an affluent one such as Naperville, you have little to no financial challenges. Some assume that the word “suburb” is associated with a family or person with this stature; however, our work has shown us that poverty doesn’t discriminate, nor is anyone exempt from it regardless of where you live.

clients2015Our goal is to offer empowerment services to our client base that could assist them with overcoming hardship and/or trauma they are experiencing. We want to provide them with a path toward self-sufficiency and independence. In our one-on-one meeting with clients, one thing I have learned is many families are only “one or two paychecks” away from being in a financial crunch, due to underemployment and unemployment, illness or death in the family, or even divorce. They want to better their lives, but they are not aware of how to access the resources they need.

Many families express thanks and gratitude to Loaves & Fishes for what we provide; however if they had the choice, they would prefer not to be in need of our services. Just because a family has a nice car and lives in the suburbs does not mean they are not facing financial challenges. We cannot assume to know their circumstances. For example, I recently met a middle-aged woman at our office. I noticed that she drives a Mercedes-Benz, always dresses well and is a well-spoken/educated woman. Why was she here? How can she afford a luxury car but be in need of our grocery service?

Job coach 2Throughout our conversation, I realized that we cannot judge a book by its cover. She discussed the hardship she’s been experiencing for the past 16 months with her children. After getting divorced and receiving custody of her children, her ex-husband was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and was unable to pay alimony and child support. The mother never finished college and has limited work experience, as she was a homemaker for 15 years. She’s currently working an overnight job paying $12.00 per hour. On that pay rate, she’s not able to pay the mortgage, care for the children, pay the utilities, buy groceries, and pay for the kids insurance all on her own.

The Mercedes-Benz she drives is 10 years old, paid-off, and was her ex-husband’s car which she received as part of the divorce settlement. She only drives it to work and to pick up groceries because she can’t afford gas more than once weekly. It needs new tires and the heat doesn’t work but she can’t afford to make those repairs at this time. Her home is about to be foreclosed on because the mortgage has not been paid in over ten months, and she has no savings to secure other housing.

Truth be told, there are many other client families also with similar stories. Poverty is here in the suburbs. Families are in need food, financial assistance, job support and other resources to “survive,” as they express. The Client Engagement Model has educated us all about the food insecurity crisis, how poverty can strike a family at any time, and to not assume only the inner-city or rural areas is where poverty lays.

Duncan Ward, Director of Empowerment Programs

December 11th, 2015

Topic Community
December 9th, 2015

Maybe it’s just the time of year that makes me reflect a little on the cycle of life and those of us who are now classified as “older adults.” Fall is a favorite season for me, but not so much for those who might be facing the challenges of their golden years with not much gold at all. At Loaves & Fishes, our senior populations have been quietly growing, whispering the need for a little more attention than we might think.

IMGP4518smWhat do we know? AARP (a great organization that somehow manages to find anyone over 50 immediately) has led the way with some great research on food insecurity among older adults. They make the point that we might well overlook the late-life hardships of this population, thinking that the social security/ Medicare safety net is strong enough to hold back the tough times. Not so, however. The overall rate of food insecurity jumped dramatically for older adults during the 2008 recession (to 18%) and has stayed at this level or higher ever since. After all, the opportunities to recover from the damages of the recession are more limited for seniors. Many have disappeared from the workforce altogether.

Loaves & Fishes has worked hard to have nutritional solutions for our families with young children, which is appropriate because they are perhaps the most food insecure populations in America. But what can we do to help our seniors?

During Hunger Action Month, a small group of concerned agencies met to talk about the contours of this group, and why they might need special attention. We were all in agreement: more seniors than ever are in need of help, and they have certain characteristics that might make them a little harder to reach. Here are some highlights from the discussion:

IMGP4597b

  • Seniors have more than their fair share of transportation problems. Especially in locations where bus schedules are non-existent, seniors can’t predict their travel. They are often without a car and at the mercy of a willing family member or friend to get where they are going.
  • Seniors are often experiencing health concerns or disabilities that make it difficult to wait in the lobby, negotiate crowded areas, or walk long distances. That’s a sure recipe for keeping you out of many of the social service agencies offering needed assistance.
  • Those same disabilities can demand a restricted diet, or at least a modified diet. Chronic care for diabetes, high blood pressure, and other diet-related illnesses requires a good working knowledge of nutrition, and more effort.
  • Many older adults have blended into other families, so that they almost lose their personal space and identity, and may be last on the list when it comes to meeting needs.
  • This hard-working generation seems to be the most sensitive and embarrassed about their circumstances. They don’t like to feel like a burden.
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    I hope you don’t feel the need to point out that this contemplation might be a little self-serving. Believe me, we’re all getting older. It is heart-warming to know that there are many who still care about what happens to our predecessors. Food insecurity is a problem that we can solve for seniors, even when it takes a little extra TLC.

    Jane Macdonald
    Associate Director of Community Health

    December 2nd, 2015

    December 1st, 2015