CHICAGO (CBS) — All this month, we’re highlighting history makers in Chicago – Black trailblazers who through their influence, innovation, and action are changing our communities.
CBS 2’S Audrina Bigos introduced us to Amena Karim, who set up a program to provide fresh and healthy food to the South Shore neighborhood in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and expanded it from there.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Weekend Warmup
“I don’t have to be a mayor. I don’t have to be an alderman. At the end of the day, I’m a community activist,” Karim said. “If someone gives me a problem, I’m going to help them design the solution to the problem.”
Karim’s mission materialized on the city’s South Side and specifically in the South Shore neighborhood. More than 90 percent of the people who live in South Shore are Black, per a University of Chicago Medicine profile on the community.
The profile also shows the median household income in South Shore is $26,906 – half of the citywide average.
A total of 38 percent of residents in South Shore are living at or below the poverty level. And before the pandemic, nearly 60 percent of residents were at-risk for food insecurity.
“We’re overlooked, underserved,” Karim said, “and I designed a program that addressed the immediate needs in this community that just doesn’t focus on food. But it really dives deeper. it looks at the social injustices that African-Americans have gone through systemically for decades.”
Karim started the organization Feeding South Shore when the pandemic hit.
“We fed over 1,500 families with fresh, culturally-appropriate vegetables, and fruit, and poultry, and meat, and gift cards,” she said.
Donors then started to give in the tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars. So the program expanded, and then was renamed Feeding Chicago Families.READ MORE: Northwestern Alums Create 'The Seeker,' A Highly Accurate Football Thrower They Call A Robotic QB
“It’s a beautiful thing for our neighborhood. We need this,” a community member said.
“It means a lot, because I’m able to feed my daughter and also have good groceries at home,” another said.
In 2020 alone, more than 5,000 families and medically ill children at local hospitals on the South Side were given fresh and healthy food. A local South Shore grocery store teamed up with Karim.
“I joined her to help deliver the food each week,” said Marvin Brown, manager at Local Market Foods in South Shore. “She’s in the ruts with us delivering the food and delivering the baskets.”
Brown emphasized the importance of what Karim is undertaking.
“It’s not just talking. She’s just not talking,” he said. “She’s putting it into action and that’s what the community needs. We need more people like her.”
And Karim is serving and changing her community.
“We’re making progress – and it’s sustainable progress for generations to come,” she said.
Karim is not only serving by way of food. She’s partnering with PC’s for People to give up to 100 computers to students in Chicago communities facing a digital gap right now during remote learning.MORE NEWS: Cariacature Artist, Substitute Teacher Says She Keeps Trying To Reach Illinois Unemployment Office -- Only To Have Calls Dropped
And after looting in South Shore this past summer, Karim partnered with the Citizen app – which gives real time crime alerts – to help business owners protect their storefronts from looting and robberies.