Northern Illinois Food Bank Launches My Pantry Express program for online pantry shopping

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Northern Illinois Food Bank's My Pantry Express program is taking traditional pantries online, allowing people to shop in the palm of their hand and then pick up what they need closer to home.

Volunteers make sure the orders placed in My Pantry Express program are correct and ready to go.

"It is a pilot program that we started to try to reach some of our folks that are not connected to the food network at this time doe to different barriers," said Weija Chang, program manager Northern Illinois Food Bank.

Those barriers include lack of transportation to a pantry, access close to home and the stigma some feel for needing a helping hand.

"This program knocks all of those down and allows people to place an anonymous order online, and go pick it up at their convenience near their home, and be able to shop for 40 to 45 very staple items that they can certainly get at a grocery store but it's available to them through a program like the food bank," said Brian Warner, production lead, Northern Illinois Food Bank.

Seventy-seven percent of people served by the Northern Illinois Food bank wor but do not have the resources to make ends meet and because of that the program fills nearly 400 orders every week.

Volunteers like Dennis Finney are the backbone of the program. They show up every week to donate time.

"I think it's very gratifying to help the hungry and the less fortunate, and you end up meeting a lot of people that have a heart to serve," Finney said.

Volunteers handle stocking the groceries, filling the baskets and checking them for accuracy before they are wrapped up to be shipped out.

"We can't do any of our work, including the My Pantry Express program, without our volunteers," Warner said. "So having a group like this as volunteers, who come in every week to do this kind of work, is amazing and like I said we can't do it without them."

More volunteers like Finney are needed, not only to prepare orders but to distribute them at locations in the community.
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