Food pantry assisting residents with holiday meal
Niles Township Food Pantry clerk Pat O'Mara places food in bags Friday at the pantry in Skokie. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
The Niles Township Food Pantry is located at 5255 Main Street in Skokie. Food distribution hours are Monday through Friday 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Extended hours on Tuesdays and Fridays are from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Updated: December 23, 2012 6:30AM
SKOKIE — Supporters of the Niles Township Food Pantry are working hard to ensure less fortunate residents get their fill of the season.
Volunteers last weekend put together special packages with foods typical of a holiday meal: boxed stuffing, potatoes, green beans, corn and, of course, a turkey.
The township expects to serve 700 local families and 200 seniors for Thanksgiving.
“It’s an amazing amount of people,” said pantry manager Amy Wagner.
The Niles Township Food Pantry is a beneficiary of the federal Emergency Food Assistance Program through the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
Yet government cutbacks in funding and food have caused the pantry to rely more on the local community.
Individuals and groups have graciously stepped up to challenge, Wagner said.
Monetary support allowed the pantry to purchase the main meat dish in the holiday packages. Dessert was provided in part by Market Day customers. Skokie/Morton Grove School District 69 annually facilitates apple and pumpkin pie donations to the pantry.
Each pie purchased in November earns extra funds for the district’s parent teacher organization “but many of our families would rather give to those in need than order for themselves,” said Market Day Chair Laura Ferrigno.
Families and individuals who prove residency and testify to reaching a certain income level are allowed to visit the food pantry twice a month to pick up pre-packaged groceries, Wagner said.
In the past five years the pantry has seen a 30 to 40 percent jump in the number of clients, she said.
Last month 3,700 Niles Township residents benefited from the food assistance program.
While the increased need may be due in part to a larger facility and operation, Wagner acknowledged, there’s no denying families have fallen on hard times as a result of the economic downturn.
“I think there are more people who are pushed to the ends of their limits and need to seek help,” said Wagner. “This recovery process is taking a long time.”
She said a recent influx of refugees and other people new to the area are using the pantry to get back on their feet. Underemployed residents are another growing faction of clients.
The Niles Township Food Pantry recently added extended hours to its pick-up schedule to allow working families to drop by in the evenings.
Though their circumstances may not be ideal, beneficiaries of the food program often feel thankful for what they are given.
“They are just so grateful to be able to go some place with a great atmosphere and great attitude to get some food to take home to their families,” Wagner said.