Demand at food pantries continues to rise as many face unemployment, hardship during the pandemic

Chicago News

CHICAGO — With the unemployment rate around 7% nationwide, Feeding America reports food insecurity is growing in Illinois and across the country.

Workers at the Lakeview Pantry Hub in Ravenswood are among those across the city seeing a rise in families seeking food assistance.

“With this pandemic so many people are having to turn to a food pantry to put food on the table for the first time. These are hospitality workers, hotel workers, folks who work for an airline,” said Lakeview Pantry CEO Kellie O’Connell.

Since the pandemic began, the pantry has served 108,000 Chicagoans, sending families home with nearly 90 pounds worth of food to last them through the week.

Sarah Adams said she is a certified nursing assistant but was recently laid off after losing her main home care client. 

“My hours got cut suddenly; it wasn’t like I had any time to prepare, I didn’t even see it coming,” Adams said.

So for the first time, the mother of two said she needed to seek help at a food pantry like the one in Ravenswood. 

“If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know what I would do to feed my kids while at the same time I’m struggling, my unemployment is not enough to make ends meet,” Adams said.

Estimates for Illinois say the percent of families going hungry are around 10% in DuPage County, 15.3% in Cook County, more than 10% in Will County, and 12.5% in Grundy County. In southern Illinois, the numbers are even higher with the food insecurity rate exceeding 20% in some counties.

“An average week before Thanksgiving we might see 100-125 families on a given shift… I saw last night we had 215 families coming through representing 600 people,” O’Connell said. 

Other community organizations are helping ahead of the holiday, including a group of McDonald’s franchise owners who handed out 250 Thanksgiving food boxes with turkeys and trimmings in Franklin Park Thursday.

At St. Sabina Catholic Church in Auburn Gresham, volunteers distributed 500 food boxes, and will do so every Thursday through the end of the year.

“If it wasn’t for this we’d go hungry, so thank you for everyone who’s helping if it wasn’t for you I don’t know what I’d do,” Adams said.

The Lakeview Pantry is also one of a few groups providing free Thanksgiving meals to those in need. To donate, volunteer or learn more about their pickup locations you can visit lakeviewpantry.org.

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