The new normal for grocery shopping. Masks. Social distancing. And the checkout clerk behind a plexiglass shield. The new normal for many low income seniors and individuals with disabilities? Not even being able to go to the store, because they’re in high-risk groups for COVID-19.

With that in mind, the Housing Authority of Cook County this morning delivered 100 boxes of fresh groceries to residents of the Authority’s Jane Perlman building in Evanston.

Toni Preckwinkle.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who joined several other elected officials at Perlman, called the delivery an “innovative solution” to help those facing food insecurity.

The boxes contained fresh fruit and vegetables, whole wheat bread and poultry. They even included something else absolutely vital these days: face masks.

The Housing Authority is providing similar deliveries to a total of 1,800 households at its buildings in Cook County.

Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty said food insecurity for those with low income was already a problem before the coronavirus pandemic.  “Many people were on the precipice” before this, he said, and the COVID crisis has only made the situation worse.

While middle and high income residents may think nothing of getting groceries delivered, for low income residents it can be a challenge. The Illinois legislature recently changed the SNAP (food stamps) program to let participants buy groceries on line.

However, the HACC officials said, only two companies, Walmart and Amazon, have joined the program. “These limited option can be cost-prohibitive and inaccessible for households in certain zip codes,” the agency said in a news release. Today’s Housing Authority delivery program helps fill that gap.

The deliveries are done in partnership with Top Box Foods, a volunteer-based program which helps provide healthful food to low income individuals.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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