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Chicago is not only an exciting city for foodies—it’s also a mecca for the healthy food-oriented nonprofit movement. That’s particularly important because one out of six people in Cook County are dependent on food pantries, shelters and other nonprofit help, according to an ABC Channel 7 report. Broad swaths of our city are food deserts without affordable fresh food options.

The Chicago Food Depository has long been known for its highly effective training and distribution systems that feed the hungry over 157,000 meals daily. But other nonprofits are doing great work— particularly those with missions to develop nutritionally savvy and empowered children, schools, families and communities. So we’re offering you a contest in order to generate more awareness of and support for them too.

In short, if you subscribe to our free biweekly email newsletter—the “Better Letter”—between July 15 and August 1, we will donate $5 to one of the nonprofits described below in your honor. You choose the nonprofit. The organization chosen by the most new subscribers will also earn an extra $2500 from Make It Better

Win For You. If you like this magazine, you will LOVE our Better Letter, with its up-to-the-minute tips, trends and recommendations, particularly of our fabulous dining and entertainment content.

Win For Them. This is easy money and greater awareness for worthy nonprofits.

Win For Make It Better. We grow another virtuous circle, connecting our audience who loves good food with nonprofits making it easier for all to enjoy healthy food. We love creating virtuous circles.

Learn more about the nonprofits:

1. Kitchen Community


Kitchen Community plants “Learning Gardens” in under-served urban schools and provides curriculum and other program support to nurture stronger communities between teachers, students and families. Founded by Kimbal Musk (yes, Elon’s brother) and Hugo Matheson. It grew out of their successful community-bistro concept “The Kitchen,” one of which opened in Chicago last fall. Kitchen Community has built 236 Learning Gardens across the country; a $5 donation provides seedlings for one Planting Day at a local school.

Corporate Sponsors include: JPMorgan Chase, Spacex, Chipotle Cultivate Foundation, The Anschutz Foundation, Wasserman Foundation, Pritzker Foundation, Crown Family Philanthropies,  Invest For Kids, CCM Grosvenor, Google and Tesla

2. Pilot Light

PIlot Light Founder and Chef Jason Hammel leads a poetry slam activity at Food Day.
Pilot Light Co-Founder and Chef Jason Hammel leads students in a poetry slam activity at Food Day. Photo by Maura Flaherty

PIlot Light was founded by Chicago chefs Paul Kahan, Jason Hammel, Matthias Merges and Ryan Poli to respond to Chicago’s high rate of childhood obesity. Pilot Light works with Chicago Public Schools to develop curriculum that educates and empowers kids to develop healthy relationships with food. This free program is currently available in six schools serving over 1,200 students; a $5 donation provides one child with participation in three cooking lessons (about six hours of classroom instruction).

Corporate Sponsors include: Wirtz Beverage, Tenzing Wine and Spirits, Lifeway, and Charlie Trotter’s Culinary Education Foundation.

3. Top Box Foods

Top Box Foods delivers affordable boxes of fresh produce and healthy proteins to customers through a network of community partners in Chicagoland’s underserved neighborhoods. Founded by Sheila and Chris Kennedy, Top Box Foods is able to offer residents of food deserts a convenient way to purchase healthy food far below retail prices by purchasing wholesale, keeping overhead low, and relying on volunteers to help facilitate food deliveries. They have provided over 43,100 boxes of healthy food since May 2012 and have donated back nearly $36,000 (5%) of food-box sales back to community partners; a $5 donation helps Top Box Foods provide up to 13 pounds of fresh produce.

Corporate sponsors include: Eli’s Cheesecake, Hillshire Brands Foundation, The Chicago Community Trust, HS2 Solutions, Fieldglass, Inc., Ogilvy & Mather, McDermott, Will & Emery, Zipcar, Enterprise, and Bank of America. 

4. Purple Asparagus

Photo courtesy of Purple Asparagus
Photo courtesy of Purple Asparagus

Purple Asparagus brings healthy foods to life for children across Chicago through their flagship program, Delicious Nutritious Adventures. Former attorney Melissa Graham founded the nonprofit with the mission to combat the childhood obesity epidemic. Purple Asparagus’ hands-on nutrition curriculum allows students to taste, feel and smell healthy foods, learn how to make simple and healthy meals, and learn how healthy foods benefit both their bodies and also the planet. They have taught Delicious Nutritious Adventures in over 30 schools across Chicago from Austin to Rogers Park.

Major sponsors include: Hillshire Brands Foundation, Tengelsen Family Foundation, Chicago Community Trust, Bernice Gershenson Philanthropic Fund, Swedish Covenant Hospital, Chiditarod Foundation and Thorek Hospital.

5. Common Threads

common threads
Photo courtesy of Common Threads.

Common Threads teaches low-income kids to be smart cooks for a healthier life. Founded by Chef Art Smith, artist Jesus Salgueiro and Linda Novick O’Keefe to fight childhood obesity and encourage families to cook and eat healthy foods together. In more than 10 years of teaching kids living in underserved communities how to cook wholesome, healthy food, they’ve served 48,454 children and adults 359,239 snacks and meals; a $5 donation provides a child with 10 healthy affordable meal plans he’s learned to cook himself, and can take home to share with his family!

Corporate sponsors include: Hillshire Brands Foundation, Whole Kids Foundation, Quaker Oats, Chicago Blackhawks Community Fund, Herbalife, United Airlines, Walmart Foundation and Barilla

Sign up for the Better Letter now and vote for your favorite food-centric nonprofit at

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