Food pantries experiencing expanding need

November 23, 2011 3:30:57 PM PST
The loading dock at the Greater Chicago Food Depository was busy Wednesday with food pantries picking up supplies that will eventually be given out to those who have no other way of getting groceries.

Brian Davis, who is with Zion Lutheran Church on the South Side, said his church is picking up 3,300 pounds of food that will feed 120 people.

Davis' church is one of 650 pantries, soup kitchens and shelters served by the food depository, which reports that in recent years, the number of people they've served has increased -- up 58 pecent from three years ago.

"The need is out there, but we can't do everybody," Davis said. "That's the sad part about it."

Bob Dolgan with the food depository said hunger exists in every community.

"Now, there's a concentration of need in the city but there's also a need in the suburbs," Dolgan said. "So even some suburbs show one in four, one in 10 people in need."

At the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry, the rate of client visits is up 27 percent from last year.

Although it's open year round, November is the busiest month and volunteers were getting ready Wednesday to provide nearly 200 people with food.

"Food insecure people have poor nutrition in general because cheap food is usually not the best for you, so we try to focus on nutrient dense and protein rich foods," said Michele Zurakowski of the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry.

And Zurakowski said they're doing so with a tighter budget.

With higher food prices and less government funding, it costs the food pantry nearly double the amount to feed a family this year.

"The cost is $10.99 per family compared to $5.41 last year.

"But clients are grateful.

"I was a health care professional and i never thought i'd be in a position like this," said food pantry client Patricia Sweeney.

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