Food Pantry in great need of monetary donations
Tony Araque of Chicago delivers food last year at the Niles Township Food Pantry. | Mike Isaacs~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 3, 2012 8:36AM
Even though Niles Township Food Pantry Director Cynthia Carranza recently marked her fifth anniversary at her important job, she is not accustomed to feeling the way she feels now.
“I’m nervous,” she said. “I don’t remember feeling nervous before, even when things became difficult and everyone else was nervous, but I’m nervous now.”
The need for food has never been this great before, a refrain that has been sounded by the Food Pantry since the crippling recession emerged several years ago.
Carranza knows that it’s human nature for people to become “desensitized” to this message when the message is repeated for so long. She knows that people have their own struggles in such bruising times, but she also knows that many people can’t afford food right now.
“Like anything else, people start to become numb to the message,” she said. “That’s human nature. It’s natural.”
Reporters who have called her to write stories on the Food Pantry seem to want a new angle to make them more interesting, she said.
“But the story hasn’t changed because the recession is still being felt so strongly,” she said. “We can’t become desensitized to this situation because people can’t not eat. That’s not an option. We’re still feeling the effects of the economy.”
Carranza, Niles Township Supervisor Lee Tamraz and the Niles Township Board of Trustees are all united in making sure that all people who are eligible for food will be served by the Food Pantry.
“We refuse to allow this place to run out of food and to send someone away hungry,” Carranza said.
But it’s a mission that’s becoming more difficult to fulfill as more people in situations they never imagined seek out the pantry for help.
In October, the Food Pantry set a record for a non-holiday month by serving 1,353 households and 3,543 individuals. That’s more individuals than were served at the Food Pantry in the holiday month of November, 2009, when food delivery is at its highest.
The totals for this month have not been calculated yet but through Nov. 18, the pantry served 1,694 households. An area dentist donated 100 turkeys and the village of Skokie also donated turkeys or the pantry would have fallen short of Thanksgiving birds for the first time in its history.
Carranza said that it’s almost certain that the Food Pantry will set a record this month, too, and will have given away more turkeys than any previous Thanksgiving.
Many area organizations have held food drives for the Pantry including one currently sponsored by the Village of Skokie. Carranza said there currently are 11 different food drives to benefit the Food Pantry.
The pantry is grateful for the help, she said, but it’s money donations that are most needed now.
The Review usually publishes what kinds of foods and goods are accepted by the Food Pantry, but this year, the Pantry is seeking monetary donations much more than food.
Food drives are labor intensive for pantry personnel, Carranza noted, and it’s never known exactly what will come in. It’s difficult to depend on food from these drives, she said.
But perhaps an even more important reason for the need for money is the rising cost of food.
When Carranza began five years ago, the food budget was about $500 a month because fewer people used the Food Pantry and the money went a much longer way. Now, the monthly budget is a minimum of $5,000 a month and doesn’t include all the food it once did nor does it include transportation and other peripheral costs.
The Food Pantry no longer buys eggs or non-powdered milk because the money simply isn’t in the budget. And not only have costs spiked but there are possible funding cuts in the Food Pantry’s future, she lamented.
Many people expected that this holiday season would be significantly better than the last, but Carranza wasn’t one of them.
“I’m a very bottom line, realistic person,” she said. “I understand the idea of believing things are getting better but I just didn’t see any signs of it here.”
She still doesn’t.
“I thought it was going to take some time before we’d see a difference,” she said. “But in the mean time, people have to eat an we need people’s help.”
To make a monetary donation, make out a check to the Niles Township Food Pantry Foundation and mail it to the Niles Township Food Pantry, 5225 Main St., Skokie 60077. People can stop by the pantry office as well.