Food pantries at Chicago community colleges help students in need

CHICAGO (WLS) -- One-third of college students face food insecurity, and that number is even closer to 40 percent among students at community colleges, according to a recent study.

In response, the Greater Chicago Food Depository and Chicago's Daley College have teamed up for the Daley Market, a food pantry that provides food for students in a way that fits their lives.

"Over and over we were hearing that a lack of food was a problem. We had students that came in and were going to a final and maybe hadn't eaten that day," said Anne Althoff, director of the Wellness Center at Daley College who helps run the food pantry.

The pantry is open to all students, regardless of financial requirement.

"If a student expresses need food, then we provide them with food," Althoff said.

Three Chicago city colleges now have a full-time food pantries through the Greater Chicago Food Depository. The goal is to have pantries at all seven of Chicago's community colleges by 2020.

"They're able to choose really what is best for their family. It really ranges from fresh produce to various non-perishable items based on what the school has available that day," said Kelsie Kleiner, associate director of youth programs at the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

The pantry is helpful at the school where many are non-traditional students.

"Sometimes we don't have time for buying something, or they are expensive, all the students, we are the mothers and fathers," said student Ivonne Sanchez.

Students can "shop" and pick out their own food.

"Especially when you have growing kids at home. Grocery bills can be pretty high. So anything that you don't have to purchase, is one less dollar you have to spend. So just being able to come in and getting those staples, peanut butter, jelly those things that you use a lot of, cereal, rice," said Cindy Alvarez, a student and pantry employee.

It's also all about the experience at the Daley Market, where students can feel more comfortable about receiving food.

"When they first come in, they're like, 'Oh, are you going to take the stuff for me? Or just hand me something?' And I'm like, 'No you're allowed to shop and get whatever you need,'" said Alvarez.

The Greater Chicago Food Depository and the Northern Illinois Food Bank are partners in ABC7's "Share the Joy" campaign.
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