Food Access to Cancer Patients in Need


L to R: Syeda Farid, Cancer Center Nutritionist, and Katherine Williams, Cancer Nurse Navigator/Director of Survivorship Program

The COVID-19 crisis has been hard on everyone, but particularly for Swedish patients who are receiving treatment for cancer during this pandemic. These patients have unique restrictions and requirements that, are unfortunately, exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis.  Many of our patients with weakened immune systems are now afraid to go to the grocery store and feel isolated and alone. Combined with job loss, reduced work hours and an overall limited income, many of our patients have confided in the Cancer Center staff that they are constantly stressed and worry about having enough money to buy groceries.

Thanks to funding from the National Breast Cancer Foundation and private donors, grocery gift cards have been provided to patients to purchase food items that are healthy, nutritious and items they would not normally have access to due to limited funds. According to Katherine Williams, Cancer Nurse Navigator/Director of Survivorship Program, these gift cards “…allow patients with limited food budgets to splurge-maybe by purchasing organic versus bottom-line produce or choosing a better cut of meat. For those who were laid off during COVID and find themselves in treatment, having a gift card literally means they can eat.”  She continues, “the grocery gift cards allow patients to make their own choices for food which appeals to them personally. Since every chemo treatment affects patients’ taste differently- what one person may crave or want is very different than another. The gift cards give them the power to purchase what they want, when they need it. Giving patients back their power is priceless.”

Syeda Farid, Clinical Dietitian/Nutritionist at the Cancer Center finds that many of her patients are grateful for the free grocery gift cards and surprised to find that they can positively change the trajectory of their treatment.  As Syeda explains, “With a gift card, a low-income patient can now purchase food that helps with their specific GI and nutritional needs without feeling guilty about taking away from the family’s food needs and limited resources. One patient even shared that she was able to buy organic meat and an avocado for the first time in her life.  Not only was this mother of 3 now provided the luxury of purchasing higher-quality meats, seafood and organic fruits and vegetables, but she tolerated her treatments better, missed fewer appointments and didn’t feel so tired and lacking in energy.

Another cancer patient, a single mother living with a sick relative expressed her gratitude for the grocery gift cards by saying, “ …that because of the Mariano’s gift card, I was able to get more energy by eating many small meals and healthy snacking.  Thanks to the free food,  I’m able to buy better  food for myself and now don’t have to worry about running out of money for food at the end-of-the month. That is when I usually have to depend on frozen or canned food. I don’t like eating canned food but I force myself because I have no choice. Thank you for providing me better options and better health.”

To many of our cancer patients, the grocery gift cards have been life-changing by providing them access to nutritious and healthy foods tailored to their specific needs. Syeda puts it in perspective when she notes that, “The gift cards have made a major impact on the physical and emotional health of our cancer patients. A $25 gift card seems like a small token, but for our patients, it can mean maintaining the nutritional support needed to continue their cancer treatment uninterrupted and giving them a chance to renew their overall health.”  If you would like to help support low-income cancer patients through this program, please contact please visit the donation form, or call the Foundation office at 773-293-5121 or email,

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3D Community Members Create Face Shields for Swedish Staff


Swedish Shield designer, Richard and mother, Deborah Beien

When the going gets tough, the tough put their creativity and determination to work and help change the world. Richard Beien and his mom, Deborah Beien, of the Budlong Woods neighborhood in Chicago, are helping protect the staff at Swedish Hospital from COVID-19 exposure with their newly developed 3-D printed Facial Shield.

March 19th, while watching Rachel Maddow speak about a community mask drive at Massachusetts General Hospital, Deborah had an idea. Why not do something similar for her neighborhood hospital, Swedish Hospital?  She immediately called her son, Richie, who as Founder and Lead Engineer at Limitless Studios (a 3D engineering & manufacturing studio), enjoys a good challenge and helping others.  Richie immediately went to work looking for existing online face shield patterns, printing them out, making revisions, and refining the pattern. Deborah and Richie worked throughout the night and into the following morning, adding elastic, creating a shield from an old report cover and finally creating a prototype worthy of critique.

The next morning, they contacted Jennifer Blitz, Director of Development at Swedish Foundation, and a neighbor, to ask about the possibility of making them for the hospital staff. Jennifer contacted the hospital’s Chief Medical Officer and brought over the prototype for inspection. On Sunday morning, the medical team at Swedish gave the thumbs-up to the prototype and asked for the community’s help in producing them.  While Richie finalized the design, crafted instructions and specs that he would give out free to community members, he also reached out to 3D makers across Chicagoland for help in production.  Deborah created a Facebook page devoted to the project, “3D Printed Face Shields for Swedish” and posted on over 20 neighborhood Facebook pages encouraging members to spread the word and solicit donations of filament and elastic.

Jennifer, meanwhile, was busy sourcing plastic sheeting which could be used as the shield. After many failed attempts at office supply stores and online searches, she entered a Staples office supply store on Clark Street and found success.  General Manager, Peter Pekarek, understood what was needed and generously provided over 400 sheets of plastic, free for the project. As Peter commented, “If we can help keep your staff safe, then that is what we need to do. You tell me how many pieces you need, and I will make sure you have it”.

Richie and Deborah worked all Saturday night printing headgear sections, resetting the machine every 1.5 hours, and getting up in the middle of the night to keep printing. On Sunday morning, Richie and Deborah had 10 face shields ready for use, which were immediately delivered to the ED.  The Swedish medical staff were delighted with the masks and asked if more could be made by community members.

Four days later, Richie and Deborah had provided instructions to over 100 community members; from teachers and engineers to elementary and high school students, retirees and fellow medical personnel. Responses to assist have come in from as far away as Florida and California. Over the past 4 days, Richie and Deborah have slept a total of 10 hours, but they’re happy to be useful in a crisis and delighted that Swedish can use their talents and skills. According to Deborah, “It makes me happy to know that I can help during this crisis. I really want to help those on the front lines, they need it, we can help, and the medical staff at Swedish deserve to feel protected”. When asked why Richie feel so passionate about this project, Richie responds, “I want to help; I was just sitting at home not really contributing but searching for ways that I could get involved. I’m always searching for ways to use 3D technology to help solve a problem. This was a perfect project, because with 3D printing you can respond very quickly with a product that can help keep people safe. I was happy to try and find a way to use my skills to help.”

Update: As of April 7h, the 3D Printed Face Shields for Swedish Facebook page has over 470+ members and the team has created and delivered over 3,500 face shields to health care professionals and front-line workers across Chicagoland.

From an idea to a community movement. When a community works together, wonderful things can happen. To view a photo gallery of our helpers and the face shields in action, please click here.

If you would like to join the 3D Makers community face shield drive, please visit, their Facebook page.

If you have new medical supplies you can donate, please click here.

For more information about the Swedish Hospital Relief Fund, please click here  To learn more about Swedish Hospital Foundation, please click here, or call 773-293-5121.

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Community Generosity Helps Swedish Prepare for COVID-19 Crisis.


Over the past two weeks, the outpouring of support from our community has been both humbling and inspiring. During this time of crisis, community members have rallied around the hospital and its staff to provide food, supplies and monetary donations.  This critical support ensures that Swedish Hospital has the resources needed to help the most people—including our providers and staff— as they combat the COVID-19 pandemic head-on.

People from across the city are helping in several ways, including:

Donation of Oofos Clogs

Oofos, a footwear company founded in Boston, have generously donated 250 pairs of clogs to Swedish staff last Friday, to the delight of nurses and medical staff throughout the building. Made with a special foam insert that reduces stress to a wearer’s feet and knees and crafted from a special material that can be easily disinfected between shifts and machine-washed, these clogs are already a favorite of medical staff here at Swedish. 

Donation of 3D-Printed Face Shields   

In an effort to extend the useful life of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks for our frontline staff, inventors and innovators in our community have come up with creative solutions. One such project uses 3D printers and simple plastic sheeting to create face shields for healthcare workers to wear over their face masks. Designed by a concerned community member and approved by the Medical staff here at Swedish, the community-driven production of 3D printed face shields has secured over 800 life-saving devices in just 2 weeks. Over 70 individuals have donated hundreds of hours and their own supplies to ensure the safety of Swedish Hospital staff.  To learn more about this grassroots effort or to join, please visit the Facebook page, 3D Printed Face Shields for Swedish

Donation to Our Relief Fund

We have established a Relief Fund which will be used exclusively to provide additional resources to support our staff and clinicians who are working tirelessly to ensure the best possible care for our patients. A Team Member Crisis Fund, has also been established to assist Swedish team members who are financially impacted by COVID-19. To donate to our crisis funds, click here.

Meals for Staff

The Swedish Hospital staff is working around-the-clock to keep us all safe while we are staying home and practicing social distancing to keep them safe. Generous community members have provided meals from a number of local restaurants to help fuel our staff with meals during this critical time. This is also a chance to support our local restaurants and delivery drivers. No home-cooked meals, please. To donate a meal for our front-line staff, click here to select a date/time and the department to support:

Donation of Medical Supplies

Over 250 donors have contributed more than 18,000 medical items including goggles, gowns, face masks, gloves, and other medical supplies. We need everyone’s help in obtaining masks, gloves and more during the Covid19 pandemic. If you are or know a local dentist, oral surgeon, surgical center, construction crew or others who may have reduced operations or are closed currently and have a supply on hand of the following, please reach out to by clicking here

Many thanks to the generosity of our donors during this unprecedented time. To view a list of donors, click here. You are helping Swedish staff who dedicate their lives to serving the sick and most vulnerable. They are our heroes, and your kindness during this time is gratefully appreciated.

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