Ravenswood food pantry continues to serve neighborhood amid COVID-19 pandemic

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As millions of people continue to file for unemployment, food pantries across the city are seeing an uptick in visitors. Ravenswood Community Services is no different.

"What we continue to try to do is provide that human connection, just at a distance," Executive Director Lori Gee said.

The organization provides food for people every Tuesday evening, but since the COVID-19 pandemic, things have changed.

"I feel like we've had to recalibrate absolutely everything we do," Gee said. "We're dividing the sidewalk to encourage people to go one way east and another west. Usually, we have about 40 volunteers to run programs. Now we're working with a skeleton crew to give everyone enough space."

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Instead of simulating a regular shopping experience by picking and choosing their groceries inside, people are outside, taking home pre-packaged bags of goods.

The same goes for the community, family-style dinner RCS typically serves.

The days of sitting in the church, bonding over a shared hot meal are over.

The meals are now distributed alongside the grocery bags.

"We're serving as their grocery store. We're their access to groceries and food, and we need to keep that available," Gee said.

She's just one of the several people who continues to go out and serve her neighbors in need. But there are people at home helping, too.

Gee said the people who are donating money help pantries in real-time by allowing them to buy food immediately, as they expect the number of people they serve to continue to grow as people lose their jobs.

RELATED: Illinois TV, radio stations unite in statewide fundraising drive to combat hunger, food bank shortages amid COVID-19 pandemic

To help, Illinois Broadcasters partnered with the Greater Chicago Food Depository and the Northern Illinois Food Bank for an ongoing virtual food drive.

"Going forward, funds are going to be needed," Gee said. "A lot of us are not able to do the regular fundraising work that's needed."

So far, the virtual food drive has raised more than $1 million, and that number continues to grow.

Jalyn Henderson is a Community Journalist at ABC 7 Chicago. She tells stories on the North Side of Chicago in neighborhoods like Uptown, Edgewater, Ravenswood, Lincoln Square, West Ridge and Rogers Park. If you have a story to share in these neighborhoods you can send an email to Jalyn.L.Henderson@abc.com
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