“I saw patients utilizing the pantry, but they were not utilizing the pantry in a selfish way. Patients were being very particular about the items that they needed. I immediately thought, ‘We need to do something like this for the Roseland community and for Far South Side residents.'”
The Feed1st Program started in 2010 as a food pantry in the Comer Children’s Hospital. It was founded by a group of Pritzker medical students, Comer Children’s Hospital staff, and University of Chicago faculty. We partner with the Greater Chicago Food Depository and UChicago Medicine Garden Committee to supply food to patients and their families at the University of Chicago Medicine.
Feed1st minimizes stigma and maximizes dignity of people experiencing hunger and food insecurity using an open access 24/7/365, self-serve, no questions asked, everyone included approach. The Feed1st food pantries are available for the entire UCM community to take what they need for themselves or others they know. There are no requirements to receive food, nor are there limits on how much food families may take, making the food pantry welcoming and accessible to anyone in need.
As of 2010, Feed1st has made impacts through…
pounds of food
pounds of fresh produce
Fun Fact: Feed1st has distributed 65 tons of food in the last 12 years, which is the same weight as 42% of the Statue of Liberty!
Why is there a food pantry inside of a hospital?
Although the hospital attracts patients from throughout the Midwest, its primary patient population is from the South Side of Chicago. Our communities experience some of the highest rates of food insecurity in the city – in some neighborhoods, more than half of the residents don’t know where their next meal will come from.
Food insecurity has been linked to negative health outcomes in both children and adults. Feed1st started in response to evidence from hospital staff suggesting that parents were going hungry at their child’s bedside. The food pantry aims to address the issue of food insecurity experienced by people in the University of Chicago Medicine community.
What is provided?
The food pantries offer non-perishable, shelf-stable food and, during the harvest season, fresh produce. Many pantries have a can opener and microwave nearby, and staff on each floor who work to ensure that family members have access to plates and silverware. We also provide take-home bags that families can use to take food home from the pantries.
Who can access Feed1st?
The food pantries are available to everyone in the medical center.
How does my family use Feed1st?
It is absolutely free to use the food pantries. The only request is that family members anonymously ‘sign in,’ by writing down the number of people eating food and their zip code. No identifying information is required and no limit is placed on the amount of food that may be taken. Sign-in data helps us describe the program’s impact to stakeholders.
Where does the food come from?
The majority of the food in the pantries comes from the Greater Chicago Food Depository. UChicago Medicine Garden Committee provides fresh produce during the harvest season.
The pantries are stocked on a regular basis by medical student volunteers from the Pritzker Medical School, University of Chicago Medicine volunteers and members of the Lindau Lab at the University of Chicago.
What if I have special dietary needs?
We regret that our ability to supply food is limited by what the Greater Chicago Food Depository has to offer at the time we make our monthly food purchase, and that requests for specific foods typically cannot be immediately met. However, if you have requests, please let us know by filling out a comment card (found in each pantry), and we will do our best to facilitate your request when we place our next order.
Click here to download the Toolkit!
This downloadable PDF includes expert knowledge and tips on how to successfully launch an open access, self-serve food pantry system in your organization. The first version of this toolkit has been developed with support from a grant to the University of Chicago Lindau Laboratory from the American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation. This work was also supported in part by the Arthur Quern Fellowship Program at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration Graduate Program in Health Administration and Policy. This work was also supported in part by NIMHD R01MD012630. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.
Open access or referral only: Health systems take different approaches to food pantry programs
In its study, UChicago Medicine noted that Boston Medical Center reported a decrease in food procured and families served from March to August 2020 compared to before the pandemic. During the same period, Feed1st’s open-access model saw a 27% increase in food distribution.
Neighbors Can Get Free Food, Personal Care Items At New Roseland Community Hospital Pantry
Roseland Reserve Initiative, launching Feb. 14, will offer food and toiletries for neighbors to take home, organizers said. Chrislin Flanagan, executive director of the Roseland Community Hospital Foundation, was inspired to start the Roseland Reserve Initiative after seeing one in action at University of Chicago Medical Center, where she underwent open heart surgery last year.
"No-questions-asked food pantry more than doubled participation during pandemic"
Read more about our impact during the pandemic.
"Hospital Food Pantries Serve Staff, Patients, Caregivers, and Family"
Hear from a Feed1st patron and our founder about the role of Feed1st during the pandemic.