Food pantries seeing big increase in demand

November 5, 2009 3:33:40 PM PST
ABC 7 has once again partnered with Dominick's for an annual food drive. It benefits the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Area food pantries are seeing a 35 percent increase in demand from families in need. ABC 7's Ravi Baichwal visited one pantry in the southwest suburbs.

In a converted auto body shop they dispense hope with hamburger rolls Helping folks like these ward off feelings of hopelessness. It's all new to Vickey Chatman, a mother of two and grandmother of one who is not getting enough hours at her marketing job to make ends meet.

"It means the difference between having a meal or not having a meal, you know, having dinner or not having dinner," said Chatman, of suburban Hazelwood.

Vickie is part of the new army of un- or under-employed who form a cascade of new clients for operation blessing.

"Tradesmen, a lot of tradesmen coming in, plumbers, carpenters, electricians come in and they all say the same thing... I never thought i would find myself in a food pantry," said Frank Sorice, manager, Operation Blessing.

There are seven deep freezers at Operation Blessing, and typically they will keep a little bit of room in them to be able to take in a big donation should it come. But, when you open these freezers these days, you see a testament to the demand for food and the shortage of food in the southwest suburbs.

Operation Blessing gets 98 percent of its supplies from the Greater Chicago Food Depository, where the view from on high shows a warehouse full of nutritious foods -- including fresh produce -- and elusive baby formula and diapers. But in this past year of economic upheaval, what you see is barely enough to keep pace with record demand. 58 million pounds of food went out the door in the last 12 months

"We can end this if everyone watching right now takes action, we can make sure that everyone in this community has enough food," said Kate Maehr, Greater Chicago Food Depository.

The food depository doesn't worry about donor fatigue because they believe there is something about people not having enough food that simply drives people to give. And any amount counts, from one dollar, to one can of soup, to bigger gifts.

One person last year made a cash contribution of $220,000 to buy that infant formula you saw. The food depository was able to buy a large amount at a discount. And 10 percent of the food in the giant warehouse is purchased with gifts of cash.


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