Fellowship Housing helps single moms who are on the verge of homelessness to get back on their feet. But we could not do this work without some of our strategic partners in the community.
Food for Friends is one of those partners. This volunteer-led and run organization runs a variety of food programs in the Chicago area. From serving meals at shelters to providing food for a mobile food pantry, they are all about helping people get food on the table, no matter what their circumstance. They provide a turkey and ingredients for side dishes to each of our moms at Thanksgiving.
Food for Friends’ Shopping Program was created specifically for Fellowship. Moms selected for this program receive groceries from Food for Friends.
However, rather than just delivering the food to our moms, Food for Friends sends a volunteer to shop with a Fellowship mom. Together, the mom and the volunteer select food, which FFF pays for. Each mom’s grocery budget is typically spent during several shopping trips, typically over about two months.
During that time, moms get to know the volunteer who shops with them, building a friendship and getting guidance on new recipes and stretching their food dollars, as well as a chance to buy some things they might not normally get.
“We want the moms to be able to get fresh fruit and veggies, things they might not be able to get from a community food pantry,” says Christina Chacon, executive board member at Food for Friends who helps coordinate volunteers to shop with moms. There are currently ten Fellowship moms in the Food for Friends program.
“It’s a great way for the volunteers to engage, and get to know a mom in our program,” Heather Corins, program director at FH, says.
“We want to partner with groups like Food for Friends, and encourage
our moms to build up resources and support system,” Heather adds.
Moms cannot use the money for clothing or toiletries, and they’re encouraged to make wise choices when selecting foods, not relying on convenience foods. However, because the Food for Friends supplements their food budget, Christina says she encourages moms to occasionally “treat themselves” and select something they normally wouldn’t buy, like steak or salmon.
Food for Friends provides a great opportunity for our moms to build relationships in the community, and often, they get tips on how to save money on groceries, how to make healthy choices. It allows the volunteers to get to know our moms and offer positive support.
“My volunteers love doing this,” Christina says. “It feels very rewarding.” One of the volunteers used to be a single mom herself, Christina says, and was eager to be able to give back to someone in a similar situation.
Food for Friends pays for a specified amount of groceries, which allows our moms to allocate more of their budget toward savings, debt retirement or other essential expenses.
Because of our matching program for debt retirement, the money saved on groceries gets doubled when it is used instead to pay down debt.
The assistance goes beyond simple finances. It allows our moms to build relationships, and also educates them about community resources they might not otherwise have known about.
“We even have graduates of our program who, if they need it, will reach out to Food for Friends,” Heather adds. “It’s a good thing for them to have that in their back pocket. When moms need assistance, they often don’t know what’s available. This introduces them to a program in the community that can help them.”
Food for Friends also sponsors events like serving Thanksgiving meals to the homeless, and providing food for a mobile food pantry at The Chapel in Lake Zurich.