For more than 20 years, the Inner-City Muslim Action Network has worked to uplift the Englewood community by providing opportunities for job training, promoting art and mental health, and expanding access to healthy food.

Those efforts appear to be culminating in IMAN’s holistic vision for the corner of 63rd and Racine in West Englewood, a collaborative effort with other community nonprofits that include a new grocery store.

Right across from the site of the future grocery store, as part of the nonprofit’s larger vision of expanding the community’s access to nutritious food, IMAN also opened a new food pantry. The Food and Wellness Center, as it is known, is the first of four new food pantries opening in Cook County, thanks in part to a series of Food Depository equity grants. These grants were designed to lift up communities like Englewood facing disproportionate rates of food insecurity.

Providing free food to anyone in need aligns with the Muslim faith, said Jamil Wright, who manages the pantry.

“One of the main principles of our faith, and what is strongly stressed, is feeding people, feeding the poor, feeding the hungry, and also helping your neighbors. It’s real special to me.”

Jamil Wright, Inner-City Muslim Action Network food pantry manager

Eight million dollars in grants and other funding have been awarded by the Food Depository to partners across our network this fiscal year, predominately those serving high-need Black and Latino communities in the city’s South and West Sides and Cook County’s south suburbs. Due to systemic barriers and injustices, these communities have long faced disproportionate rates of poverty and food insecurity. The pandemic only widened those gaps, leaving our partners needing more resources to serve greater amounts of people.

By the end of fiscal year 2021, the Food Depository provided funding for four new pantries and existing pantries to transform their facilities and operations. These improvements include expansion of cold storage capacity for more fresh produce, building renovations, or other technological and capital improvements to improve the pantry experience. In most cases, this resulted in sites being able to open extra days and accommodate a higher volume of guests.

The team at the Sheldon Heights Food Pantry, a longtime Food Depository partner located on Chicago’s South Side, used their grant to install a walk-in freezer and add another distribution day every week. Their next goal is to invest in a new sign that welcomes people into the pantry, something coordinator Eric Clark said will hopefully increase awareness about what they’re able to offer the community.

“I think the biggest thing for this community and our clients is just the reassurance that there’s always somewhere they can go get food,” Clark said. “And not just food, but quality food.”

None of these investments would have been possible without the ongoing dedication and support from people like you. Thanks to our donors, our network of partners will continue transforming the lives of our neighbors in need.