Black History Makers: Amena Karim Took On Mission To Bring Fresh Food To South Shore And Beyond

Amena Karim set up a program to provide fresh and healthy food to the South Shore neighborhood in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and expanded it from there. CBS 2's Audrina Bigos reports.

Video Transcript

- We're highlighting history makers in Chicago. Black trailblazers who threw their influence, innovation, and action are changing our communities. CBS 2's Audrina Bigos introduces you to Amena Karim.

AMENA KARIM: So I don't have to be a mayor. I don't have to be an alderman. At the end of the day, I'm a community activist. If someone gives me a problem, I'm going to help them design the solution to the problem.

AUDRINA BIGOS: That takes us to Chicago's south side, the South Shore neighborhood. More than 90% of the people here are Black, per this University of Chicago Medicine profile on South Shore. It shows the median household income is around $26,000. That's half of the city-wide average. 38% of residents here are living at or below poverty level. And before the pandemic, nearly 60% of residents-- more than half-- were at risk of food insecurity, meaning not enough food to feed their family.

AMENA KARIM: We're overlooked, underserved. And I designed a program that addressed the immediate needs in this community, that just doesn't focus on food, but it really dives deeper. It looks at the social injustices that African-Americans have gone through systemically for decades.

AUDRINA BIGOS: Meet Amena Karim. She started feeding South Shore when the pandemic hit.

AMENA KARIM: We fed over 1,500 families with fresh, culturally appropriate vegetables, all right. And fruit and poultry and meats and gift cards.

AUDRINA BIGOS: Then donors started to give in the tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars. So the program expanded, and then it was renamed "Feeding Chicago's Families."

- It's a beautiful thing for our neighborhood. We need this.

- It means a lot so that I'm able to feed my daughter, and also have good groceries at home.

AUDRINA BIGOS: In 2020 alone, more than 5,000 families and medically ill children at local hospitals on the south side were given fresh and healthy food.

MARVIN BROWN: And I joined her to help deliver the food each week.

AUDRINA BIGOS: Marvin Brown is a store manager at South Shore's Local Market Foods. The store teamed up with Amena.

MARVIN BROWN: She's in the ruts with them, with us, delivering the food and delivering the baskets. It's just not talking, she's just not talking it. She's putting it into action. And that's what the community need. We need more people like her.

AUDRINA BIGOS: History makers serving and changing their communities.

AMENA KARIM: We're making progress. And it's sustainable progress for generations to come.

- And Amena Karim is not only serving by way of food, she's partnering with PCs for People to give up to 100 computers to students in Chicago communities facing a digital gap during remote learning. And after looting in South Shore this summer, Amena partnered with the Citizen app, which gives real-time crime alerts to help business owners protect their storefronts from looting and robberies. We have so many other compelling stories to share. African-American change-makers shaping history today. Look for our special Black History Month history makers this Wednesday, right here on CBS 2 and our digital streaming networks CBS and Chicago. That is at 6:30 on Wednesday.