Thursday, November 21, 2019

Flashback 1994: Agency Offering Free Groceries to Its AIDS Clients

The Afternoon Meal by Luis Meléndez Spanish (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

     Sometimes I post old articles because they resonate with some current event, or I think they're unique enough to merit re-reading. I'm sharing this ordinary news story because it is blown up and on display in the window of Open Hand Chicago's Groceryland, celebrating its 25th anniversary today.
     I'm still in touch with Open Hand founder Lori Cannon: in fact, I attended a party honoring her recently. She's as feisty and determined as ever, decrying budget cuts making it harder for Open Hand to feed the needy.

     "Just in time for the anniversary, and to kick off the season of service and gratitude, the CDPH slashes our food budget by $200,000," Lori writes.
Groceryland moved to 5543 N. Broadway, so if you want to send money, send it there, zip code 60640. Make the check to Heartland Alliance Health /Food & Nutrition division and earmark it to the North Side Center, as they now have four, the only city in the United States to have that many.
     "Despite the recent kick in the teeth I remain committed to serve my clients as I always have—with dignity, self reliance, variety and tasty grub," writes Lori, who has fed 15 million meals to Chicagoans. "Twenty five years is a good start huh?

     For six years, Open Hand Chicago has been delivering hot meals to people with AIDS. Beginning today, the organization is doing something that can be even more helpful -- letting people make the meals themselves.
     "Not everyone is bedridden; not everyone is homebound," said Lori Cannon, one of the founders of Open Hand and the manager of its new North Side Grocery Center. "There are a lot of active people with AIDS who need a little help, and if they can get here, we have a beautiful order of groceries for them."
     The center, 3902 N. Sheridan, is giving free groceries to Open Hand clients who prefer to have more input in what they are eating. Organizers hope this will keep them eating nutritiously.
     "The opening of the grocery center represents a major step forward in AIDS nutrition services in the city," said Sam Clark, executive director of Open Hand. "The center will give our clients a greater sense of dignity and self-determination. They'll be able to cook for themselves or have food prepared for them according to their individual taste and cultural preferences."
     The center is painted in cheery colors of baby blue, lime green and bright yellow, and accented with fun touches, such as a mounted fish sporting orange polka dots and a gold earring.
     "Our clients spend so much time in Public Aid offices, in doctors' waiting rooms," Cannon said. "We wanted the place to be cheerful and warm."
     Initially, the center will serve about 45 clients a week, with that number rising to 100 or so by next year, when similar centers will be opened on the West and South sides. To receive food from the center, people must either be enrolled in the Open Hand program, which serves about 900 meals a day, or be recommended by a social worker and meet eligibility requirements.
     Allison Long, 25, is a center volunteer.
     "Being able to cook for yourself gives you more freedom, dignity and a sense of independence," she said. Except for Cannon, the center will be staffed by volunteers.

—Originally published in the Sun-Times, November 21, 1994,


  1. Interesting that this program should have such a specific clientele. When I lived on the North Side, I would have considered Bryn Mawr and Broadway a little too genteel for the likes of me. Irving and Sheridan was more in my neck of the woods.


  2. Open Hand and Lori Cannon. There is hope for us yet, sometimes it's just hard to see it through all the smoke and greed. Kudos as well to Sam Clark and Allison Long, two more American caretakers to admire. Thanks for the story and the still life. I have no memory of seeing it previously and I would have remembered this wonderful piece. It is a fitting compliment to the subjects of this column.


Comments are vetted and posted at the discretion of the proprietor.