(All photos taken by photographer Nancy Stone for Nourishing Hope)

Every morning, Daniela Flores wakes up at 3 a.m. to drive her husband to work.

Then she makes breakfast for her four young daughters and drives them to school by 7:30 a.m. Her day is a whirlwind of activities from there — groceries, errands, cooking and cleaning. In the afternoon, she attends nursing school at Truman College as she seeks a change from her previous career as a chef.

Daniela and her daughter Ana in the Nourishing Hope HQ.

Daniela and her daughter Ana at Nourishing Hope’s HQ.

Like millions of American families, Daniela’s family has struggled to keep pace with rising costs. Her husband Omar is also trying to advance his career, having just finished school to become an aviation mechanic. They’re determined to provide for their children.

They are among the 4,250 people per year who receive food through our online market. Launched in 2019, the innovative program allows people to order their groceries online for pickup and skip the lines at food pantries. The online market has been especially popular for working families with busy schedules.

“This has helped my family tremendously,” said Flores, 35. “You took on expenses (for food) that we could put toward college and books and that has helped us so much.”

In the past couple of years, Nourishing Hope has served a growing number of families with children. Costs have risen dramatically since the pandemic. Federal assistance dwindled. In the past year alone, Nourishing Hope served about 35% more families with kids than prior year.

Summer is always a time of heightened concern for child hunger. Kids don’t have the same daily access to free and reduced-priced meals through school.

Audelia Arellano receives food from Nourishing Hope's online market.

Audelia Arellano receives food from Nourishing Hope’s online market.

At a recent online market distribution at Nourishing Hope’s HQ in West Town, Audelia Arellano said affording food through the summer is a challenge for her family. Though she is fully employed, she still has five kids to feed, ages 6 through 13.

She turns to Nourishing Hope for additional support.

“This helps me manage the food situation,” said Arellano, 31. “Because they’re always hungry.”

The online market makes it easy. A small cadre of volunteers hustled boxes of food into waiting cars. After checking in with a staff member, some people got out of their cars to select some additional offerings like bananas and pastries. Most of them left with their groceries in about five minutes.

Volunteer Meta Gorup, at right, helps Piotr Radon with his groceries.

Volunteer Meta Gorup, at right, helps Piotr Radon with his groceries.

Piotr Radon, a Polish immigrant who’s lived in Chicago for about 20 years, smiled as he received groceries for himself and his wife. They started needing food assistance during the pandemic and costs have only continued to rise, he said.

“This place helps tremendously,” said Radon, 51, who works at a restaurant. “Since COVID, the cost of everything went up like three times.”

Inside, Flores kept eyes on her 18-month-old daughter Ana as she selected flowers to go with their assortment of groceries, which included milk, bread, fresh produce and meat, through our online market program.

Changing careers hasn’t been easy, she said. Even before the pandemic mostly shut down the restaurant industry, Flores was feeling discouraged about her future as a chef after being passed over for a promotion. There aren’t enough opportunities for women in the restaurant business, she said.

Cathy Camacho, online market coordinator for Nourishing Hope, shares an adorable moment with 18-month-old Ana.

Cathy Camacho, online market coordinator for Nourishing Hope, shares an adorable moment with 18-month-old Ana.

The former chef still expresses her love through food, though.

With the groceries she receives from the online market, Flores prepares a variety of meals for her husband and daughters — Mexican fare such as tamales, enchiladas, soups and sauces from scratch, and also other kinds of cuisine, such as Italian and Palestinian. With fruit, she likes to make aguas frescas.

Sometimes, it can be hard for families to ask for help. But Flores hasn’t hesitated to seek additional support to feed her daughters.

“I never get embarrassed about feeding my kids,” Flores said.