Grinch time in Chicago as the hungry get corporate propaganda instead of tons of food? Did the mayor order CPS to refuse cooperation with teachers in the annual food drive (for the first time in more than a hundred years)?... Hypocrisy, corporate branding and Rahm Emanuel's holiday wishes...

Ironies were heaping upon hypocrisies in Chicago on the day before Thanksgiving as the city's publicity hungry mayor announced his corporate partnered brand of hunger relief downstairs from the offices of the Chicago Teachers Union. Mayor Rahm Emanuel's media event — touting a thing called "One City One Food" — at the pre-Thanksgiving Merchandise Mart came a few days after his hand-picked schools chief had effectively terminated a hundred years of cooperation between teachers and the school system in collecting and providing food for the hungry annually between Thanksgiving and Christmas every year.

The tradition of having food for the hungry donated at public schools during the holidays season stretches back longer than anyone Substance has contacted can remember. The program had always been the same, with the Chicago Teachers Union announcing and promoting the food drive through its members, and the Board of Education handling the pick-up and distribution of the food using its trucking.

For the first time in a hundred years or more, in 2011, that is not happening. Chicago's public schools, the largest group of public buildings in the nation's third largest city, will not be locations for the collection of food for the hungry, and Chicago's teachers, the largest group of public workers in the city, will not be a central part of that effort, through the traditional partnership between the Chicago Teachers Union and CPS that has lasted for generations, since before, indeed, Chicago's current mayor and Chicago's current schools chief, "Chief Executive Officer", were born.

Apparently, the new mayor views the food drive of 2011 as another opportunity to promote corporate branding and public relations, and to continue his attacks on Chicago's teachers.

According to those with knowledge of the situation, including union staffers, CPS Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard has deliberately refused to establish the procedures necessary for the union to announce the annual food drive. Brizard was asked, but apparently has been too busy with mayoral publicity stunts and figuring out the latest attacks on the unions and the city's public schools to continue the long tradition (during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, Brizard and his top executive staff — none of whom had any experience in Chicago's public schools prior to their appointment to the six-figure jobs within the past six months — were too busied producing and distributing the already infamous "School Report Cards" that CPS officials forced each parent to take during the Report Card Pickup days on November 16 and November 17.

Why is the only question remaining for Brizard, for the mayor who appointed him, and for the dozens of six-figure executives who have been given jobs in Chicago's public school system since May 2011. Substance has left messages with CPS publicity people and will report the answer when and if it arrives.

The most powerful announcements of the annual food drive have always taken place during the Chicago Teachers Union's House of Delegates meetings. At those meetings, more than 600 delegates from all of the city's real public schools meet, get information, and discuss policies and programs. No one has been unable to locate a time when the November and December House of Delegates meetings (and, recently, the union's website) did not announce that each school would receive food for the hungry. In order for those school-based drives to succeed, however, CPS executives had to make the logistical arrangements to get the donated food from the city's massive school system to the food banks where it would be distributed to the hungry.

In 2011, for the first time in a century or more, that rather simple logistical challenge was not a priority for Jean-Claude Brizard or anyone on his so-called "team."

Despite union efforts to establish the liaison prior to the November House meeting, Brizard failed to respond. With the agenda for the December House of Delegates meeting in preparation by Thanksgiving (and the meeting scheduled for November 30), union officials had to tell union delegates and members that the food drive could not be promoted this year. The reason being give is that CPS officials had failed to clarify how the food would be gathered and distributed in and through the schools and the school system. Both Board of Education members and administrators were made aware of the logistical requirements weeks before Thanksgiving, according to union officials. CPS officials and Board members have not returned Substance phone calls at the time of this writing.

As a result, Chicago's more than 600 public schools, under the leadership of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, refused for the first time in more than a century to collect the food that teachers, parents and children bring to each public school during the holidays. As a result, the Chicago Teachers Union has had to announce that teachers who collect food will not be able to count on CPS to pick it up and get it to the places where it will get out to the poor. The mayor and his "team" had already missed the possibility of Thanksgiving by the time of the mayor's pre-Thanksgiving publicity stunt at the Merchandise Mart, and it is almost too late as of this writing to prepare for the work before the Christmas holidays begin.

Is Chicago's Mayor Rahm Emanuel continuing to give his special salute to the city's public schools and public workers by refusing to have the Board of Education help with this year's annual food drive? Above, the mayor at the August 31, 2011 budget hearings at Malcolm X college. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.On the morning of November 23, 2011, Rahm Emanuel hosted a typical Emanuel publicity stunt at the Merchandise Mart "El" stop entrance. At that event, Emanuel announced the food drive for this year. Instead of public cooperation with public servants (like teachers) in public buildings, Emanuel chose the event to hype what amounted to be the privatization of the events — and the opportunity to add to the corporate branding that have already become the signal daily work of this administration. The branding includes giving this year's version the name ONE CITY, ONE FOOD (forget the grammar and focus on the event). "The drive will run from November 21 through December 16," Emanuel said according to a City Hall press statement, "and One City, One Food Drive barrels will be located at over 150 locations throughout the city. Locations include City of Chicago fire stations, libraries and police stations, InterPark parking garages, and downtown buildings that are members of BOMA Chicago."

According to the press release from the mayor's office:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE. November 23, 2011. CONTACT: Mayor’s Press Office 312.744.3334

Mayor Emanuel Encourages Chicagoans to Give Back to Their Communities During the Holiday Season

This morning Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined volunteers from the Greater Chicago Food Depository (GCFD) in encouraging Chicagoans to give back to their communities and support those in need during Thanksgiving and the upcoming winter months with the One City, One Food Drive.

“Let’s express our gratitude not only in words but in action,” said Mayor Emanuel. “Chicago is not just a collection of neighborhoods, we are one city, and in difficult times, with the combined generosity of the people of this city, we can give some hope and support to those who need it most.”

The City of Chicago has partnered with the Greater Chicago Food Depository, Chicago’s food bank, to launch One City, One Food Drive, which encourages people across Chicago to donate nonperishable food for those in need. The drive will run from November 21 through December 16, and One City, One Food Drive barrels will be located at over 150 locations throughout the city. Locations include City of Chicago fire stations, libraries and police stations, InterPark parking garages, and downtown buildings that are members of BOMA Chicago.

"We are so grateful for the city's involvement in One City, One Food Drive," said Kate Maehr, executive director and CEO of the Greater Chicago Food Depository. "If everyone in Chicago donates one can of food, we can end hunger in our community."

This year, One City, One Food Drive has a goal of collecting one million pounds of food for distribution, a goal that will almost double the total amount of food collected in the same time period last year. GCFD estimates that one in six Cook County residents is food insecure, or uncertain of where their next meal will come from. 678,000 Chicagoans are served every year by GCFD.

The food drive will be featured across the city in coming weeks as part of a pro bono ad campaign by Young & Rubicam. "Do It for Chicago" encourages Chicagoans to give one dollar, one can of food or one hour of time to hunger-relief programs. For more information, and a complete list of food drive locations, visit

The City’s partnership is part of the City’s ongoing campaign to promote volunteerism and furthering civic engagement by residents through One Good Deed Chicago. It includes the volunteer-matching site, where hundreds of nonprofits post skills-based, one-time and ongoing volunteer opportunities. Cities of Service awarded Chicago and nine other cities Leadership Grants in January 2010. Chicago’s plan focuses on making volunteerism more accessible and impactful by better aligning residents with existing nonprofits, building non-profit capacity to more effectively use volunteers and nurturing the culture of service and philanthropy in the City of Chicago.

For more information, visit


November 24, 2011 at 9:34 PM

By: Susan Zupan

Breakfast in the Garbage at CPS

I truly hope that the Mayor's office and/or someone from CPS will partner with any and all distributors of food to the hungry in Chicago in order to think about then implement the following plan: place an extra step of some kind between 1) the students in CPS being given the "Breakfast in the Classroom" food and 2) an incredibly wasteful amount of said food going straight into CPS garbage dumpsters every morning. How about bins placed in between, bins that might collect the completely uneaten food for redistribution to where it might be needed that morning in the communities?

November 25, 2011 at 12:44 AM

By: Jeff Burdick

Funny Mayor lampoon video

Your column calls it correct that the mayor is publicity-starved, but it takes two to tango. Why the two daily newspapers and Channel 7 lap up and regurgitate the mayor's forced, manufactured news conferences is beyond me. They seem to cover City Hall like it was a sports beat for one of the two baseball teams: Do an occasional initiative piece and regurgitate the official daily news releases (even if this results in the exact same story as in the competition).

For a funny look behind the curtain of how Rahm develops such a news conference, check out this humorous YouTube video:

November 25, 2011 at 4:18 AM

By: Sarah Loftus

Food Drive

What a shame.

We used to have the whole school involved in the annual Food Drive. At the time Kelvyn Park HS was bursting at the seams with 2,000+ students, most poverty level. Our goal was 'One can per kid" and would have charts on the wall in the lunchroom to show our progress toward the goal.

The generosity of some of the poorest families in the city was overwhelming. We would not only meet our goal each year sometimes we would even double it. The students, their families, the faculty and staff would all get involved. It was a wonderful learning/teaching moment.

This just shows that when strangers take charge, all their fancy degrees and resumes don't mean a thing.

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