Demand at pantries still rising
Volunteer Donna Soltwedel of Norridge serves a client at the Salvation Army food pantry in Norridge. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Take Our Poll
How often do you donate to the food pantry?
To help fill shelves
The Salvation Army Norridge Citadel accepts donations from 9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 9 a.m.-noon Friday at its offices at 8354 W. Foster Ave. in Norridge.
Call (708) 456-6220 for information.
The Alvernia Pantry accepts donations at the St. Celestine pastoral center, 3020 N. 76th Court in Elmwood Park.
Call (708) 453-2555 for information.
Suggested items include packages of pasta or rice dishes, cereal, macaroni and cheese, peanut butter, jelly, instant mashed potatoes, canned and dried soups, canned and dried fruits, small canned hams, small bottles of vegetable oil, small boxes of crackers, small cans of coffee, and other canned items such as tuna, chicken, vegetables, pork and beans, ravioli, spaghetti and meatballs. The pantries also accept donations of toiletries such as toilet paper and tissues.
The Citadel pantry especially is in need of breakfast cereal and pasta.
The Alvernia pantry could use donations of rice.
Updated: October 14, 2012 12:38PM
NORRIDGE — As lines continue to grow, pantries are looking to find ways to keep their shelves stocked.
“To our surprise, we’re still seeing a steady increase in the amount of new clients,” said Pamela Church-Pryor, community ministries director of the Salvation Army Norridge Citadel at Foster and Cumberland avenues.
Her observations reflect the results of a U.S. Department of Agriculture study released this month that found the number of people unable to put food on their tables without assistance is increasing.
According to the study, 14.9 percent, or 17.9 million, households across the country last year did not have consistent access to food. Five years ago, the numbers were 11.1 percent, or 13 million.
Of those, 36 percent are households in which one or more people are working, according to Feeding America, a non-profit organization that works to ease hunger in America through food banks across the country, including the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
Served by the depository is the Alvernia Pantry, which operates out of the pastoral center of St. Celestine Parish.
Pantry Manager Sister Johanna Treml also observed that the need for help continues to grow. Increased need has caused the pantry to tighten the boundaries of the area it serves.
“Now it’s limited to just Elmwood Park,” she said of the service that used to be available to a wider number of households.
Treml surmised that people on fixed incomes turn to the pantry to make ends meet through the month.
“The cost of food is increasing, and people find themselves running short,” she said.
The pantry serves about 100 people per month, up from about 40 a few years back.
Church-Pryor isn’t sure why more people are in need.
“Maybe it’s new people moving into the area,” she said. “It could be people losing jobs or finding ones at lower wages.”
Both she and Treml said many clients have expressed difficulty signing up for the state Link card, which through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has replaced food stamps.
Norridge Citadel Capt. Brian Davis has his own theories.
“I think more people have been displaced, or are working fewer hours,” he said. “We become the stop-gap that helps them stretch out their dollars through the end of the month.”
Seeking to raise awareness, Feeding American has designated September as National Hunger Action Month.
Doing her part to ease the problem is citadel pantry volunteer Donna Soltwedel.
Soltwedel, who cannot work due to a disability, said she felt useless staying at home doing nothing.
“I was reading in the paper about how they needed help in the pantry,” she said. “I come here and I’m needed.”
Her most uplifting time is when people come in to sign up for the first time
“People come in with their heads hanging down, they’re ashamed that they need help,” Soltwedel said. “Everybody needs help at some point.
“By the time they leave, they’re crying tears of joy because they don’t feel ashamed anymore.”
Church-Prior noted the citadel pantry is the lucky recipient of the largess of various national chain stores in the area as well as from a national pet supply store.
“That’s such a plus,” she said of the assistance for animals. “People otherwise have to give away their pets or deprive themselves of food.”
Still, the pantries could use donations in advance of the holiday season.
“We’re here year round, and the summer months are our leanest,” Church-Pryor said.