Mayor Lightfoot Launches City of Chicago Emergency Food Coordination Center

Apr 24, 2020

CHICAGO - Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot today announced the official launch of the City’s Emergency Food Coordination Center at Malcolm X College in partnership with The Salvation Army and the Greater Chicago Food Depository. This coordination center ensures that all who have tested positive or have been asked to quarantine by healthcare officials have access to food during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The City of Chicago and partner organizations are continuing to offer existing food support programs for vulnerable Chicagoans and this new coordination center leverages and expands these current systems.

“Due to the unprecedented impact the COVID-19 crisis, we have a responsibility as a city to support our residents and families during their urgent time of need,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “This coordination center represents a critical resource not only for our communities, but for our entire city as we navigate this evolving challenge and ensure every Chicagoan remains safe, healthy and secure.”

3-1-1 requests received from residents who are homebound and quarantined due to COVID-19 who need direct food deliveries and do not qualify for existing food support services will be referred to the new Chicago Emergency Food Coordination Center.  The center will coordinate with The Salvation Army for emergency meal box deliveries, typically within 48 hours. Vulnerable residents who qualify for existing food support will continue to have access to youth meals, Meals on Wheels for older adults, and the Food Depository’s network of partners and support services. As a reminder, contact 3-1-1 by downloading the CHI311 free mobile app, going online at or by calling 3-1-1.

“We’re honored to be called upon by Mayor Lightfoot to be a part of this solution,” said Commissioner Barry Swanson, Salvation Army Metropolitan Divisional Commander. “This program really goes to the heart of The Salvation Army’s mission to make sure that people who need food, get that food. This is a dangerous situation, but it allows us to minister to people in a very specific and tangible manner.”

The emergency meal boxes from the Salvation Army for homebound and quarantined residents due to COVID-19 include a seven-day supply of food with three meals per day. Residents who need assistance the following week need to submit a new request to 3-1-1 at that point. If the need for food is immediate, the coordination center will work to provide the resident with assistance through the support of City volunteers and the Food Depository.

“Our neighbors need our help and they will continue to need our help for months to come,” said Kate Maehr, the Food Depository’s executive director and CEO. “We’re grateful for Mayor Lightfoot’s leadership in this crisis. Together, we can help make sure that no one goes hungry in these difficult times.”

The coordination center soft-launched March 30 for dispatch, food facilitation, and resident support. Over the past few weeks, the team has worked to ensure that the food plan initiated through the coordination center leverages and expands current systems in place for vulnerable residents. In that time, 3-1-1 has received approximately 15,000 food service requests. The Emergency Food Coordination Center has been made possible thanks to a unique collaboration led by Chicago Public Library. Library employees, City Colleges work study students and staff, and employees from the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events operate the coordination center daily (Sunday through Saturday) from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

“It’s really been amazing to see staff from city departments, government agencies and non-profits come together, working toward a shared mission,” said Chicago Public Library Commissioner Andrea Telli. “We have been able to successfully redeploy City employees in ways that leverage their talents and typical job functions prior to this crisis.”

The following is a breakdown of the updated food distribution plan for the entire city.

Youth up to age 18:

• Children and teens who are food vulnerable have access to meals and food boxes via Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and the Archdiocese of Chicago. For the closest CPS Grab and Go Meal Sites, visit:

• Children and teens who are in quarantine because they tested positive, were exposed to someone who tested positive, or have symptoms, are able to request a meal delivery by calling the CPS Hotline at 773-553-KIDS (5437).

Adults from 19-59 years old:

• Adults who are food vulnerable should continue to utilize the existing food pantry system. The Food Depository is Chicago’s food bank, serving a network of hundreds of food pantries and similar programs. Anyone who needs food and can access a food pantry – or knows someone who can visit a food pantry for them – should visit www.chicagosfoodbank,org/find-food/ or call 773-247-3663 to find the food pantry nearest to them. Residents should call the food pantry in advance to ensure hours of operations.

• Adults with a disability can contact the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities to arrange for In-Home Service Meals by contacting 312-746-5773 (Monday through Friday) from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

• Adults 19-59 who are in quarantine because they tested positive, were exposed to someone who tested positive, or have symptoms, call 3-1-1 to request emergency food. The resident is routed to the new Emergency Food Coordination Center and The Salvation Army typically delivers food boxes within 48 hours, which include seven days’ worth of meals (three meals per day).

Adults 60+:

• The broader senior community that do not have alternate food sources are encouraged to contact the Department of Family and Support Services’ call center at 312-746-4016 (Monday through Friday) from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for the Meals on Wheels Program.  These seniors will receive a weekly meal delivery of six meals to their home. Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) senior residents 60 and over can also contact CHA’s emergency services.

As of April 18, Chicago Public Schools had served nearly 6.5 million meals, the Department of Family and Support Services had distributed close to 350,000 meals, and The Salvation Army had distributed more than 113,000 meals.

The Salvation Army also continues to provide meals, snacks, and hydration to a number of people on the front lines in the City of Chicago and congregate feeding at temporary shelters.

The Food Depository’s primary focus is on keeping its network of food pantries and other partners strong and operational during these unprecedented times. The Food Depository is also helping connect people to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and Medicaid. Those interested in applying for benefits should visit the state’s benefits enrollment website at or call the state hotline 1-800-843-6154.

The City of Chicago Emergency Food Coordination Center is part of Mayor Lightfoot’s comprehensive response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which spans economic relief measures taken for residents and businesses and ensures a swift and precise health response to protect residents in the face of this unprecedented pandemic. Last week, Mayor Lightfoot announced action to expand housing, shelter, and care for populations most vulnerable to COVID-19 and has continued to make progress toward lifting the burden from the City’s healthcare system. The City continues to provide essential services maintained as Chicago remains under a state order issued by Governor Pritzker for residents to stay at home through May 31.

For more information and updates on COVID-19, text COVID19 to 78015, email or visit

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