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2016 A Just Harvest Wine Tasting Event

A Just Harvest’s 2016 Wine Tasting is set for June 12 at Taste Food and Wine in Rogers Park.

This year’s theme is Old World v. New World.

Date: June 12, 2016, from 2-4 PM

Location: Taste Food and Wine
1506 W. Jarvis Ave. (across from the Jarvis EL stop on the Red Line)

Cost: $40/person. Phoebe Snow, one of Taste’s owners, will guide us through samples of 3 varietals, from 3 different countries (9 delicious varietals in all). Half of all proceeds will be donated to A Just Harvest and tasters will also receive 20% off in store purchases the day of the event.

Come on out for a lovely Sunday afternoon with your A Just Harvest friends and a beautiful, neighborhood location in Rogers Park.

Homeless in Chicago: Echoes from the Great Depression

This article comes to us from Chris Wright is a Ph.D. candidate in U.S. labor history and author.

It is a sadly obvious fact that our country is at a stage comparable in many respects to both the late 1920s and the 1930s, during the Great Depression. Economic stagnation, income inequality, high unemployment (as of February 2016, 10.1% or 14.7%, depending on the source), and increasing homelessness are only a few of the parallels between that earlier time of despair and our own.

The rise of demagoguery and bigotry in our mainstream political discourse is another clear analogy, reminiscent of demagoguery in Europe during the Depression.

So it may be of interest to recall conditions in that earlier time, since things are likely to get worse in the coming years. As a historian who has studied Chicago’s public homeless shelters in the 1930s, I’d like to consider that topic here.

Some readers may, perhaps, recognize similarities between what I’ll describe and what they have personally experienced.

In 2014, a “point-in-time” count of Chicago’s homeless population found 5,329 people in shelters and another 965 unsheltered residents. But according to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, there are in fact 64,000 homeless adults, 48,000 homeless children with parents, and 12,000 people younger than 21 without parents or guardians. (These numbers include people without a permanent residence who live with friends or relatives.)

Compare that with the 30,000 to 60,000 homeless residents who were in Chicago at any given time in the late 1920s, when the city had about 300,000 more people than it does now. Or, even more tellingly, compare the 5,329 in shelters on one night in 2014 to the 20,000 who coursed through shelters the entire month of February 1932, in the depths of the Depression.

These figures are ominous.

Even more ominous, though, is the fact that homeless shelters have been closing in recent years, as government funding has become less reliable. For example, the North Side Housing Shelter closed in November 2010; Catholic Charities closed two family shelters in the summer of 2015; and the New Life for Men shelter is currently closed because of funding cuts.

In our present political environment, such trends are likely to continue. And conditions in shelters are likely to worsen, as the few that remain open become overcrowded. Like they were in the Great Depression.


Conditions in most shelters (particularly for men) during those years were abysmal, and give us evidence of how harmful “austerity” politics is to the poor.

One man who had found it necessary to apply to a shelter in 1935 described it as follows:

Here [in shelters] privacy is a forgotten word. On a cold or rainy day, or during the evenings, men are crowded into the basement or assembly room—German, colored, Pole, Greek, Mexican, American, Irish, Russian, and every nationality… Here also are degenerates, drunks, working men, bums, clerks, old men with all ambition gone, young men whose every ideal has been crushed, all herded together. One almost tastes the stench of unclean bodies, and the sulphur odor from fumigated clothes. For quite a while this lack of privacy nearly drove me nuts.

First of all, the physical facilities–warehouses, old factory buildings, schools commandeered for the purpose–were not exactly calculated to lift the spirits.

For instance, a “recreation” room with few amenities was typically overcrowded with men dozing on uncomfortable seats, standing silently or sitting on the floor because there were not enough chairs or benches, a few perhaps playing checkers or dominoes quietly in a corner.

Much worse, though, was the “bull pen,” a dark, damp, dismal place located in the basement, where men could go to escape supervision. Often littered with cigarette butts, wads of chewing tobacco, crusts of bread, and discarded clothing, it had no furniture except some backless benches on which “clients”–or “inmates,” as they were called–might sleep or have a drink.

The sleeping rooms were sometimes so densely packed with cots that it was necessary for the occupant to crawl in from the head or the foot of the bed, which violated state health regulations. Having been sent to bed at 8:00 or 9:00, the inmate spent the night trying to get to sleep while surrounded by 25 or even a hundred other men, until awoken at 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. The cacophony of “snoring, sneezing, moaning, sleep-talking, and coughing,” to quote one account, would likely keep him awake for hours.

For most men there were no pillows or sheets. As for the blankets, they seemed to one reporter to be made of paper, which left the men shivering all night from drafts–drafts that did nothing to ameliorate the stench of perspiring bodies and disinfectants. Bedbugs and lice, fond of this environment, bit and crept all over their prey.

Meal service, too, was inadequate, especially in the years before 1935 when only two meals were served a day, at 6:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. (It was assumed that if the men got hungry in the interim, they could go out and beg for food or find odd jobs that might pay a few cents.)

The food itself was not infrequently rotten or bug-ridden, and most of the time was quite bland–cold beets, weak coffee, unbuttered bread, a tin bowl of beef stew, an old piece of fruit, etc.

In general, the central fact of shelter life in the 1930s was regimentation. One author summed it up well: “When the man enters the shelter he learns the meaning of the word ‘line.’ He is a ‘linesman’; he lines up to see the caseworker; he lines up for his meals; he lines up to fumigate [every two weeks] and then to bathe; he lines up to wash, to shave, to use the toilet, and to go to bed. ‘I spend,’ said one man, ‘half my waking hours either standing and waiting for something or sitting and waiting for someone.’” “Why in hell don’t they line us up against the wall and shoot us and get it over with,” grumbled one inmate.

Lines six blocks long to get food, serpentine lines that might take two hours to walk through.

“Watchmen” were always present to intimidate and challenge the men, especially if they were drunk, in which case they might be beaten–with clubs, sawed-off baseball bats, or lead pipes–and forced outside even in the cold night air.

A reporter summed up the whole wretched environment: “The place has approximately the same effect as a jail. It is the individual against the world. The monotony of the same old faces, ideas, arguments, line, nothing to do but sit, finally gets under the skin.”

Through collective struggle and activism by the shelter men and social workers who represented them, conditions did improve a little, for example when lunch began to be served in late 1934. Likewise, after a winter of discontent in late 1931–protest demonstrations and individual acts of resistance occurring in shelters all over the city–a Special Activities Department was established to give the men more options for recreation.

In fact, Communist organizers had considerable success in some shelters as they advocated not only for better food and more humane treatment but, more broadly, interracial unity and a nationwide socialist movement.

Daily Communist-run meetings were held in a few shelters, in which the men discussed how best to improve conditions and which specific grievances should next be brought to the shelter supervisor. At the conclusion of these meetings, a researcher remarked, “the radical songs are sung–‘Solidarity,’ ‘We’ll Hang Hoover to a Sour Apple Tree,’ and the ‘Marseillaise.’ Misguided as it perhaps all is,” he continued, “it is rather a stirring sight to see men and boys stand erect at the end of the meetings and sing these songs with great emotional feeling.”

However, despite all the efforts of activists and thousands of shelter men, it proved impossible to significantly improve conditions in Chicago’s shelters. Pleading the necessity of “austerity” (to use contemporary language), political and economic authorities refused to divert substantially more resources to them.

And even when most of the shelters were shut down in 1935 and the men transferred to private quarters in rooming houses and tenements, the city’s relief administration continued to be so poorly funded that it frequently could not pay the men’s rent or provide them with adequate food or supplies. The second half of the 1930s saw crisis after crisis in the financing of relief, leaving thousands of people in dire want and misery.

The struggles of the unemployed to influence relief policy continued, but in the end it took World War II to finally solve their problems and raise their living standard.

Insofar as homeless shelters today are, in most cases, not as inhumane as those in the 1930s, we have decades of popular movements, popular pressure, and public-spirited advocacy to thank. Because of this, in fact, it is unlikely that most shelters will ever be allowed to sink to quite the level they were at in the Depression.

Instead, what will happen is that the loss of government funding will force more shelters to close. Meanwhile, more people will require access to shelters because of long-term unemployment. The “shared sacrifices” and “tough decisions” that policymakers insist we must all accept because of government budget deficits will, as ever, disproportionately affect the poor, even as corporate profits remain at historic highs.

Whether we can distribute the economic sacrifices more equitably and so prevent history from repeating itself depends, ultimately, on whether we can build popular movements even greater than those that came to fruition during the Great Depression. At no time in our history has the task of “raising consciousness” been more urgent.

Chris Wright is a Ph.D. candidate in U.S. labor history, and the author of Notes of an Underground Humanist and Worker Cooperatives and Revolution: History and Possibilities in the United States. His website is

The State of A Just Harvest’s State

Governor Rauner,

The State of our State as experienced at A Just Harvest is not good.

Numbers in our Community Kitchen hold steady as we see an increase in the number of mentally handicapped, children and seniors.

Vulnerable parents seeking a road out of poverty have been blocked while applying for childcare assistance. They saw the qualifying maximum slashed from $44,000 to $12,000, meaning two parents, working full-time at minimum wage, were too wealthy to get childcare.

While these cuts were officially reversed in November – for the most part – as many as 32,000 eligible children are still without daycare.

Homecare providers have seen paychecks withheld, delayed and diminished. If your bank account is padded by commas and zeros, no problem. If yours has never seen a comma and regularly approaches zero, having a paycheck withheld is gut-wrenching. It’s also immoral.

Let’s not play games with people’s well-earned pay.

In Rogers Park, parents worry as they send their children out the door in the morning: will they survive the route to and from? Will the school keep its doors open or will funding cuts – like the $1.2 million over the past thee years sustained at Gale Academy, just down the street from us – continue to make charter-school cherry-picking the only viable option?

A large percentage of young men and women in our neighborhood find themselves with few good options.

However, perpetuating a criminal justice system that subsists on court fines and fees, that treats young brown and black people differently, and that prefers to lock up and throw away the key – at great taxpayer expense – rather than figuring out how to bring those on the margins back into the fold is unjust. It’s immoral. And it must stop.

Governor Rauner, no doubt our state faces a financial morass. It is a once in several generations problem, requiring long-term commitment and civic engagement, two “c’s” missing from your “compassion and competition” platform.

We are all committed to working together to build a better Illinois – one that will stand vibrant and healthy 100 years from now.

But we can’t do it on the backs of the poor. Never, in the history of the world, has sustainable change been brought about by exploiting low-income and vulnerable communities.

And it won’t work here.

Instead, let’s close loopholes that allow two out of every three corporations in Illinois to pay zero in corporate income taxes.

Let’s find ways to fund education equitably so that our youth – whatever their zipcode or skin color – has a viable shot at a living wage.

Let’s end the cancer of gun violence, which is every bit as toxic to our state’s competitiveness as anything contained in tax codes and collective bargaining agreements. Let’s not be fooled into thinking that as long as shootings are contained to certain geographies, we can continue on with the business of building the state.

It won’t work.

We’ve got an incredible state, no doubt, rich with history and blessed with natural resources and potential.

Will you join us – those on the margins, those without a direct line to the capitol – in building it ?

Yours sincerely,

Marilyn Pagán-Banks
Executive Director

Call-in Day to Senators Durbin and Kirk re Food for Peace Reform Act – August 19th

Join us today in calling in to the offices of Senators Durbin and Kirk to voice your support for S.2421, the Food for Peace Reform Act. We should all get behind this important legislation that will help transform food aid for the 21st century.

Call in at (800) 826-3688 and ask for Senators Durbin and Kirk (two separate calls).

Please download and review this flyer, then forward to family and friends.

See this great video by CARE to get an idea of the current waste entailed in American food aid.

Produce Order Form -August 12, 2014

Get your fresh (and delicious !) produce from A Just Harvest. Lots of goodies available this week – download the order form below and send to Anthony Boatman, Director of The Genesis Project. Our team will have your bundle of goodies ready for pick up or even deliver to you !

Produce Order Form – Week of August 10

Today's delicious produce looked like this 10 weeks ago !

Today’s delicious produce looked like this 10 weeks ago !


Man on a Mission: Carmelo LoGalbo

Carmelo LoGalbo, A Just Harvest Board Member, Community Kitchen Chair, and Volunteer Extraordinaire

Carmelo LoGalbo, A Just Harvest Board Member, Community Kitchen Chair, and Volunteer Extraordinaire

Carmelo LoGalbo, A Just Harvest Board Member and Chair of the Community Kitchen, has been serving with A Just Harvest since 2008. Born in Utica, New York, in 1944, Carmelo was initially invited by his church, Winnetka Presbyterian, to help out as the church brought meals on the third Monday of every month.

Carmelo quickly discovered his passion for the work and now serves in the kitchen three times a week. A retired computer retail business owner, he also spearheads A Just Harvest’s outreach with veterans, one of the larger constituencies of the kitchen.

How did you get started with A Just Harvest?
Our church was engaged every third Monday bringing food and volunteers. I was invited one time and after three or four times serving, I said to myself, I need to do this more often.

I started coming once a week. Then it was twice a week. Now I’m up to three times a week. I was also invited to join the Board and Chair the Community Kitchen.

Why do you like volunteering with the Community Kitchen so much?
It’s like a magnet. The Community Kitchen is full of unique cultures, personalities, and stories. There are literally thousands of stories in the kitchen.

A lot of people are homeless or live in a one bedroom apartment without any appliances. They might have a crockpot or hot pad. The kitchen may be the only place where they get a nutritious meal.

How have you been impacted by volunteering?
It’s all about respect. I’ve done every position in the kitchen – washing dishes, bussing tables, cleaning bathrooms, managing volunteers.

One night I was wiping down a table that was still occupied. The patron was maybe 25 years old, an African-American man, clean cut.

As I was wiping the table, my towel inadvertently splashed water in his direction and he stopped me and asked me if I would show him some respect.

I paused for a split second and then thought, “Yes, I can show you respect.” From that moment, I’ve striven to honor all the patrons of the kitchen and I think they recognize and appreciate this.

What needs does the kitchen have?
It would be great to have more churches, synagogues, and groups engaged to spread the work around. Currently, we have a lot of groups serving more than once a month. If we could spread groups out so they only serve once a month, we could increase what we offer during each meal.

That said, we are extremely grateful for the support we already have!

We also want to stay independent from Government funding, which would take away from our mission of providing a meal to anyone and everyone who walks through our doors.

You also work a lot with veterans at A Just Harvest. What can you tell us about that?
We started noticing about a year and half ago how many veterans were coming to the kitchen. That got us interested.

Then, about 10 months ago, I contacted Senator Durbin’s office to register our interest in helping veterans. Obviously, this was an important issue to his office, because the next day, I received calls from three Veterans Affairs hospitals asking how they could help.

From there, the initiative has blossomed.

How, specifically, does A Just Harvest help veterans?
A VA-appointed outreach worker comes to the kitchen on the third Thursday of every month and helps veterans identify services they’ve earned but may not be accessing.

We also host one-off events to remind veterans we care. For example, next month we will be taking 40 veterans and family members to a Chicago Sky basketball game. It’s a nice way to say thank you and remind them that they matter.

A Just Harvest is a Rogers Park non-profit that runs one of the longest self-standing Community Kitchens in Chicago. Founded in 1983, A Just Harvest has served 1.36 million meals at the hands of nearly 170,000 volunteers. In addition to the Community Kitchen, A Just Harvest serves as a leading voice for the poor and marginalized in Chicago through Northside P.O.W.E.R. (People Organized to Work, Educate and Restore).  The organization also creates meaningful economic opportunities through The Genesis Project, which facilitates lifetime change for beneficiaries.

Contact Rev. Marilyn Pagán-Banks for more details.