Pilsen Food Pantry expands mission during COVID-19 crisis to meet Latino community's needs

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Wednesday, September 23, 2020
Pilsen Food Pantry expands mission during COVID-19 crisis to meet Latino community needs
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A food pantry in the Pilsen neighborhood is rising to meet the COVID-19 crisis in the Latino community.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A food pantry in the Pilsen neighborhood has risen to meet the needs of the Latino community during the COVID-19 crisis.

One doctor's vision has grown into a major resource for people in need.

Hundreds of pounds of food arrived Wednesday afternoon at Pilsen Food Pantry.

The pantry has taken over a deconsecrated church in the neighborhood.

"Outside of my exam room I couldn't do very much to change the quality of life that my patients had," said Dr. Evelyn Figueroa, Executive Director of the Figueroa Wu Family Foundation. "I resolved to change how I took care of my patients."

Figueroa, a family physician, and her husband Dr. Alex Wu wanted to start with the very basics. They opened the pantry in 2018 and moved to the former church back in March during the height of the pandemic to meet the need and expand.

They've added a thrift store, food supply delivery and more.

"We are a very tiny but mighty operation," Figueroa said. "Folks didn't have clothes to wear, so we sponsored a clothing drive. We got too many clothes and you can see the results here," she said motioning to a former classroom filled from floor to ceiling with donated clothes and shoes.

People can come in to thrift and donate, or get clothes free of charge if needed.

Figueroa said the need is increasing.

"We started with only moving 1,000 pounds of food a week. We presently move 16,000 thousand pounds of food a week," she said.

Now the pantry and clothes closet serve up to 70 families per day Monday through Friday-- that's up nearly 50% since the pandemic began.

"We hear 'thank yous' all day. Everybody is very appreciative of this. You can tell what we're doing is a lot of help," said Clothes Closet manager & volunteer Natalia Gonzalez.

Clients fill out a request form, and volunteers gather the food for you. In a community hit hard by COVID-19, every bit helps.

Take it from pantry client Maria Riley, "Anyone who needs help, they're there to help," she said.

The Pilsen Food Pantry is open to anyone, so if you need help, don't hesitate to come out.

More information on hours, how to donate, and other social health initiatives can be found on their website.