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The University of Chicago is rallying around the South Side community amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The institution recently announced the launch of a new program designed to help local residents who are facing food insecurity and small businesses experiencing hardships as a result of the public health crisis.

The initiative, dubbed Partnering for Community Impact, will focus on fighting hunger, providing resources and support for local business owners and assisting nonprofit organizations that serve vulnerable populations in furthering their efforts. Through the project, the university is aiming to provide over 200,000 meals—which will be prepared at its on-campus dining facilities—for those in need over the next ten weeks and will also donate $1 million towards initiatives focused on food insecurity. The school is teaming up with the Greater Chicago Food Depository to lead the effort. The institution will also allocate $1 million for the creation of grants to support small businesses and nonprofit organizations. It will provide online courses to help business owners navigate the crisis and will train students to serve as consultants for businesses and nonprofits.

“The University of Chicago has a deep commitment to the people of the South Side, and these new efforts build on this commitment at a time of dramatic challenge and uncertainty,” said the university’s president Robert J. Zimmer. “By working in close coordination with local community organizations and a variety of partners in the nonprofit, private, philanthropic and government sectors, we will help meet critical needs of the South Side communities of which we are a part.”

The school is also putting the focus on health care professionals, COVID-19 patients and their families. Through UChicago Medicine, it is working on providing support for individuals facing financial burdens as a result of medical costs stemming from Coronavirus treatments, supplying personal protective equipment and other hospital care necessities, utilizing technology so that loved ones can connect amid the social distancing restrictions and other needs.

News about the University of Chicago’s initiative comes nearly two weeks after Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the creation of a $100 million fund to provide loans for the city’s small businesses in an effort to ensure they recover after the pandemic.

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