Alumni Update: Amy Verrando Feeds the Front Line in Chicago

May 1, 2020
Food is delivered by Feed the Front Lines
Food is delivered by Feed the Front Lines
Food is delivered by Feed the Front Lines
Food is delivered by Feed the Front Lines
Food is delivered by Feed the Front Lines
My involvement with the University Honors Program really unscored the importance of taking initiative. The program gives you all the tools you need to succeed, but it is ultimately up to you to take action and utilize them. In other words, UHP taught me to step up and fix the problems I identify.

Honors alumna Amy Verrando (summa cum laude, 2018 – English and Psychology) has recently founded the Chicago area chapter of Feed the Front Line, a grassroots campaign that provides much needed economic support to local businesses and front line workers – and she says her experience in UHP helped inform the project.

After graduating from the U of M, Verrando spent a year teaching English on a Fulbright in Malaysia. Upon returning to the US, Verrando continued working in education accepting a position in academic support at the College of DuPage, a community college nestled in a southwest suburb of Chicago. Just as she was settling into a routine and back into US culture, COVID-19 struck and Verrando, like millions of Americans across the country, found her routine uprooted. “It felt as if all the communities I’d been working so hard to cultivate since coming back to the US had been dismantled in a matter of hours.”

Working from home, Verrando watched as the coronavirus began to take its devastating toll, questioning what she could do about it. “My involvement with the University Honors Program really unscored the importance of taking initiative. The program gives you all the tools you need to succeed, but it is ultimately up to you to take action and utilize them. In other words, UHP taught me to step up and fix the problems I identify.”

Verrando heard of small businesses shutting down across the country for lack of funds and knew front line workers were working overtime, putting their lives at risk every day. After identifying these problems, she went about solving them. To do this, Verrando partnered with two fellow Fulbright scholars to found the Chicago chapter of Feed the Front Line. The organization creates a two-fold impact for every donation, as money supports both front line workers and small businesses across the Chicagoland. The organization uses individually-sourced donations to purchase meals from local, family-owned restaurant businesses and then donates them to essential community workers.

“Every day I get to witness firsthand the compassion, dedication, and resilience of my community. The other day, I was delivering meals to Milton Township Pantry, a food bank in Wheaton, IL. Upon seeing the bags of food in my arms, the director of the pantry exclaimed, ‘Most folks don’t think of us food bank staff when they think of front line workers, but we’ve been busier than ever. Thank you so much for coming here and thinking of us. It made our week.’”

Reaching and prioritizing underserved areas like food banks is central to the organization’s mission. “Each week we carefully research what locations around our community are already being served and make sure to reach out to those that aren’t,” Verrando says. “In addition to larger hospitals and clinics, we like to think we are feeding the forgotten front line workers in places such as nursing homes, grocery stores, testing centers, fire departments, and post offices.”

While in UHP, Verrando was a research assistant, peer mentor, and served on the Legal Services Board of Directors. She founded Women’s Night at the Center for Outdoor Adventure’s climbing wall and worked as a writing consultant for the Center for Writing.

“Everything I am, I owe to the people and the communities that have invested in me. Interacting with some of the most at risk individuals in my community on a daily basis highlights the importance of leaning into our relationships and checking in with those we care about. Even though we must remain physically distant, we are not alone – we will get through this together.”

Please consider donating to Feed the Front Line Chicago and sharing their story on social media (Facebook and Instagram). To volunteer, deliver, sponsor, or donate meals contact feedthefrontlineschi@gmail.com.