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While there is enough food to go around, people always want food, and by 10 a.m. on a sunny Tuesday morning 176 people had either full bags or baskets of food or were waiting to get food such as bananas, radishes and loaves of bread.
Few realize that sixteen percent of the population in Evanston is food insecure or Evanstonians do not know where their next meal is coming from. Some Evanstonians cannot afford food because after paying for rent, bills, transportation or other expenses they do not have a lot of money left over.
In order to fix this problem, the Produce Mobile serves these people and makes healthy eating possible, and easier if they are on tighter budgets. This means that Evanstonians do not have to go hungry. While some of the produce gets thrown away because it is not suitable for eating due to cold or freezer damage, 95% of it is fresh and any Cook County residents can come and get it.
The Produce Mobile is an extension of the Greater Chicago Food Depository,
which has been serving
Cook County since 1979. According to their website, last year the Food Depository distributed nearly 72 million pounds of food, 37% of it being fresh produce.
Around 7:45 a.m. site manager Mary Beth Roth arrives at the Robert Crown Center, which the City makes available to the depository. When she pulls into the parking lot, people are already in line for a ticket to get produce. According to the building manager some people arrive at Crown at 5:45 a.m. to wait to get a good spot in line, even before the site is
set up. For hours they wait patiently as produce arrives, tables are unfolded and produce is unpacked.
“We really discourage people from doing that because there is always enough food,” Ms. Roth said.
After everything is set up, people in line are checked to see if they are Cook County residents. If they are, they get a number and wait until the mobile market is open. When it opens at 9:30 a.m., the numbers are called in the order they were given, to prevent a rush and to encourage people to wait in line. If people are waiting inside after they get their ticket and miss their call, when they come out, they are moved to the front of the line.
“After their number is called, [they] go through the assembly line of food and have the tables checked off their ticket to show that they got a certain amount of one instead of getting more than the other,” Ms. Roth said. Since this has happened there have been fewer attempts to try and sneak away more food. This ensures an equal amount of food for everyone.
To equally distribute the food, Ms. Roth relies on volunteers from Interfaith Action Evanston and sometimes people on mission trips. This time the missionary was the Pray Pelicans Mission from Houston, Tex. According to legend, when food is scarce a mother pelican pecks herself
to feed her children. Also, the purpose of the mission fits perfectly with the motivations of the group. The group was hosted by Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, where they rested, taught the Bible and
did other work for the Church, which is located on Clark St.
Both mission groups and the City of Evanston recognize a need to help a percentage of the population that can go hungry. The Produce Mobile is in Evanston at 9:30 a.m. every second Tuesday of the month at Robert Crown.