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Woman stocks shelves with cereral boxes

Providing Food, Resources and Hope to the Chicago West Side

Born and raised in Chicago’s Garfield Park neighborhood, 66-year-old Addie Mosby is the sole caregiver for her 94-year-old mother, who has dementia, and struggles with isolation and lack of healthy food options, as well as medical and mental health care in her neighborhood.

“The West Side of Chicago suffers disproportionately from higher rates of chronic disease, acute ailments and mental illness,” says Donald Dew, vice chair of the Wellness West board of directors. “This is the result of disinvestment, structural racism and inadequacies in the current health and social service system.”

According to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, approximately 20,000 people live in East Garfield Park on the West Side of Chicago. Almost half of all household incomes earn less than $25,000, making property ownership out of reach, with 75% renting instead of owning homes and 43% not owning a car. Education access is also a disparity as 80% of adult residents do not hold a bachelor’s degree.

Mosby connected with the Garfield Park-based nonprofit, Breakthrough Urban Ministries, which takes a hyperlocal approach to the challenges many people in the community experience. For several years, Mosby has visited Breakthrough Urban Ministries to get nutritious food, manage her health conditions and build relationships that feel like family. 

East Garfield Park is a food desert. According to the Chicago Health Atlas, 52% of residents do not have proper access to food. The Breakthrough Fresh Market food pantry provides high-quality, nutritious food. Mosby is among nearly 18,000 residents who received groceries from Breakthrough last year. 

“I go twice a month now, and you can get your eggs, dairy products and produce there,” Mosby says. “It’s been very helpful.”

With support from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, Breakthrough Urban Ministries expanded its health and wellness program, including food access, community health response and mental health services for children and adults. 

The health and wellness program includes a community health worker — a neighbor and trained expert — who works to improve health equity in Garfield Park by sharing health literacy information while building relationships with local residents and serving as a liaison between medical systems. Mosby works with the CHW to improve her access to quality health care and consistent support. 

“I am a diabetic, so my CHW helps me check on that,” Mosby says. “He works with my primary care physician and with my endocrinologist and always welcomes me to come to Breakthrough’s health fairs and screenings.”

To enroll in the benefits she is eligible for, such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Mosby connected with a benefits specialist at Breakthrough. For Mosby, these benefits provide financial assistance and support to maintain well-being and stability.

“Any concern I’ve ever gone to them with, even if I haven’t known exactly how to go about it, they’ve always directed and encouraged me,” Mosby says. “They’re like extended family.”

“Breakthrough Urban Ministries is dedicated to caring for the whole person, understanding that true wellness involves physical health and other factors that contribute to a person's well-being,” says Yolanda Fields, Breakthrough's executive director. “By offering integrated services that include access to food, medical care and community engagement, we seek to bring about a Garfield Park where every resident is well and thriving.”

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, a Division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company, an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association