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DeKalb County Community Gardens Respond To COVID-19 By Distributing Free Food

Photo provided by DCCG

DeKalb County Community Gardens is a nonprofit organization dedicated to getting fresh produce to people who are experiencing food insecurity. According to the DCCG, 20% of children and 14% of adults in the county deal with it and the numbers are going up because of the pandemic. But the DCCG is using extra resources such as the Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program to make sure everyone has access to healthy food.

The CFAP connects the products harvested by local and national farmers to people who are food insecure. Dan Kenney is the executive director and founder of DCCG. He said its partnership with Feeding America through the Northern Illinois Food Bank has increased the amount of nutritious food the nonprofit is able to distribute.

"There were two semi loads brought into Sandwich and distributed," Kenney said. "One semi of just milk, and the other semi had boxes of fresh produce."

Kenney said the free packages of fresh food are available to anyone in DeKalb County experiencing food insecurity. "I wish people would understand," he said, "that's it's really open to anyone. There's many different levels of food insecurity."

He listed some examples:

  • Those on tight budgets who have a limited amount of money for food
  • Senior citizens who are raising grandchildren
  • The newly unemployed or those laid off due to the coronavirus
  • Those who have COVID-19
  • Those who live with someone who has COVID-19

Kenney emphasized that the DCCG wants people to feel comfortable reaching out for help and that the process for obtaining food is relatively simple. 
"We don't ask for ID," he said. "We don't ask for any 'proof of need.'"

Here's what they will ask:

  • How many people are in your household?
  • How many are 60 years of age or older?
  • How many children are under the age of 18?
  • What is your zip code?

That data helps them keep track of how many people the DCCG impacts with food distributions.

When people arrive at the food distribution center, Kenney said they should:

  • Wear a face mask if they are able
  • Stay in their car
  • Pop their trunk open or at least have it unlocked

Volunteers will then put the food into the trunk of the car. 

The DCCG started in 2012 but Kenney said he has felt strongly about empowering people to choose healthy and sustainable foods for decades.

"All my life I've been concerned about the issues of poverty and food insecurity," he said. "I grew up on a farm and we didn't really have very much money, but we always had enough food, and that was because of our gardens and of our canning."

Kenney said nobody in DeKalb County or anywhere in northern Illinois should ever go to bed hungry. "We have enough food," he said. "It's just a matter of connecting people with the food."

The food distribution will continue to be open Mondays and Wednesdays at a variety of sites throughout DeKalb County. To learn the specific times and locations, click here. Kenney said the DCCG website provides all the details. To receive regular updates, follow them on their Facebook page