Food pantry donations help feed deserving families

July 20, 2011 7:58:18 PM PDT
Summer is the time of year where many families depend on food pantry donations because children are out of school and eating at home.

A lot of work goes into feeding those who need it most. ABC7's Leah Hope found one initiative that allowed us to see firsthand how donations go from store shelves to the dinner table.

Wednesday was a hot day to be standing outside. But, for Tina Mitchell and her granddaughters, free food is worth waiting for.

"I just want them to be healthy and do something with their lives," said Mitchell.

On Wednesdays, Harmony Community Church opens its food pantry in the Lawndale neighborhood. They see 400 people a week.

Harmony is part of the Greater Chicago Food Depository's network of pantries that gets donations from individuals and corporations.

"The unemployment rate is higher than it's ever been, especially in this community," said Harmony Community Church's James Brooks. "If we can just provide food, an extra help for families in need, that's what we're here to do."

Shoppers may be accustomed to checking the expiration on produce. But some local retailers are also checking the sell-by date to see what items can be donated.

Participating retailers would have thrown out items close to expiring or slightly imperfect. The food rescue program gets that food to those who need it most.

Wednesday morning, ABC7 followed a food rescue, produce from a Wal-Mart, and boxes of frozen meat and baked goods and produce from Jewel.

"It helps us eliminate waste for the company. And not only that, you know you're helping the community," said Jewel's Karen May.

Wednesday morning's food rescue came to Harmony. Volunteers got the food organized and ready for clients in less than an hour. They know summertime can be an even more challenging time for families trying to keep children fed.

"During the school year, children may be able to receive school lunches and school breakfast, but during the summer, where do they get their meals from?" said Greater Chicago Food Depository's Angel LaLuz.

Tina Mitchell said she will be back next week. She wants her grandchildren get the nutrition they need now, so that someday they will be self sustaining and achieve their goals, and the dreams she has for them to go to college.

"They won't have to do what I'm doing," Mitchell said, "going from pantry to pantry."

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