Loaves & Fishes pantry continues to address unprecedented need in Naperville
By Susan Frick Carlman || email@example.com December 7, 2012 9:34AM
Delia Corona of West Chicago smiles as she loads groceries at Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry on Wednesday, December 5, 2012. Corona said it would be hard to feed her four children without the help of the pantry, which had busiest month ever in November and is at less than half of its fundraising goal of $115,000 to provide holiday meals for its bulging client base. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media
Some 2,000 local families are expected to turn to the Loaves & Fishes Community Pantry for assistance during December. Partnerships with local food stores, farms, churches, businesses, schools, civic groups and government agencies enable the pantry to stretch its food dollar a long way. For that reason, a $25 donation covers a complete holiday meal for eight people.
And like most food relief organizations, the pantry also appreciates food donations. At the moment, stocks of canned vegetables and soup are relatively secure, but the shelves are quite short on canned peaches, applesauce, mixed fruit and raisins; and carbohydrate-rich foods such as oatmeal and other cereals, pasta, rice and crackers. The pantry’s supplies of protein foods such as tuna, chicken, beans, chili and stew are beginning to dwindle as well.
Food donations can be dropped off between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Friday; 8 a.m. and noon Saturday; and on Sundays by appointment.
Volunteers age 18 and older are always needed for tasks that include sorting, stocking, greeting and food distribution, among others.
Monetary donations can be made through the agency’s website, www.loaves-fishes.org, or mailed to Loaves & Fishes, 1871 High Grove Lane, Naperville, IL 60540. For more information, call 630-355-3663.
Updated: December 7, 2012 12:10PM
This might sound like a broken record, but the Loaves & Fishes Community Pantry has broken its own grim record. Again.
During November, the Naperville hunger relief agency fed 1,972 families in need, some of whom turned to the pantry more than once during the month. In all, the nourishment needs of local residents were met 11,153 separate times over the 30-day period, an increase of nearly 10 percent over the volume the pantry saw in the same month last year.
Charles McLimans, the food pantry’s executive director and CEO, said he has been looking at the numbers, and there are glimmers of hope.
“The good news is the percentage change in new families seems to be going down,” McLimans said.
While the increase in November 2011 was 143 percent over the previous November, the pantry nonetheless is seeing large numbers of new faces come through the door. In all, new family enrollments are up 71 percent over 2011.
“It’s still pretty high,” McLimans said.
And families need ongoing help with groceries for longer periods than they did in the past, he added. The pantry’s operators have reported that one in five children in DuPage County is food insecure, meaning they lack the assurance of three daily meals — a condition that hinders kids’ communication, reasoning and recall skills.
At several times over the days leading up to Thanksgiving, volunteers and pantry workers saw more than 200 families come through in a single four- or five-hour distribution session, pantry spokeswoman Jody Bender said. During the holiday week, 996 families came in for help putting food on their tables.
“The Thanksgiving season typically heralds one of our busiest months of the year, but this November shattered all previous records,” Bender said in a news release this week.
The pantry has faced an additional challenge in recent weeks, after it was notified of the withdrawal of an expected $15,000 donation from a community group that usually helps cover the expense of holiday meals.
The sting has been eased slightly by stepped-up fundraising efforts through the H.O.P.E. (Help Other People Eat) campaign. McLimans said the fundraising goal was set at $115,000 to accommodate the shortfall, and when November ended, the sum collected was $53,530.
“It continues through the end of December, so it seems to be that we’re on track to hit our target,” McLimans said. “We’re very hopeful that we can.”
Edward Hospital contributed 500 turkeys to the pantry, and the Naperville Park District’s Nov. 17 Turkey Shoot Golf Tournament, which yielded a $1,105 donation, and its Pennies for Pies fundraising campaign, which generated 130 holiday pies, also have been helpful, he said.
While unemployment numbers have begun to improve nationally, McLimans said there hasn’t been significant movement locally, and many jobs that have been lost are unlikely to be refilled.
“The job market is still very slow,” he said, noting that the pantry’s employment support program maintains a waiting list.