Katherine Maehr ’89

2008 Distinguished Citizen Award

View all Distinguished Citizen Award recipients

Kate Maehr is executive director of the Greater Chicago Food Depository, the food bank for Cook County, which last year provided food to an estimated 500,000 hungry people. A 12-year veteran of the GCFD, Maehr has a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Wisconsin—Madison. Prior to taking the helm of the organization, Maehr, as development director, spearheaded a successful $30 million campaign for a new facility that allowed the GCFD to double the number of people it served.

Maehr leads the Food Depository in its mission to provide food for hungry people while striving to end hunger in the community. The GCFD delivers 40 million pounds of food annually through 600 partner food pantries and soup kitchens, while also providing those partners with expertise in training, grant proposal writing, and community organizing. Through their Community Kitchen program, they provide unemployed and under-employed people with culinary training that enables them to earn meaningful wages. While learning, these students prepare 2,000 meals a day for inner-city youth.

"Kate has been instrumental in taking the Food Depository from a small, grassroots organization to one of Chicago’s premier human service organizations," says her predecessor Mike Mulqueen.

In 2004 Maehr was chosen as a Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow. Each year, the coveted fellowship brings together 35 top Chicago leaders from all walks of life to share experiences ranging from a seminar on race to a ride-along with the Chicago police, building connections across professions. Crain’s Chicago Business named Maehr one of its noteworthy "40 under 40," in part due to her work marshalling resources for communities devastated by Hurricane Katrina.