By Darsea Hajdarevic and Ariana Terrell
According to the Food Research & Action Center, 10.5 percent of households in the U.S. are experiencing food insecurity.
In the midst of COVID-19, Chicago has had a higher demand for food. There are approximately 33 food pantries located in Chicago.
Among many others, the Lakeview Pantry has made a mission to accommodate those in need, especially during the pandemic. While helping the community, the staff and volunteers abide by the state mandate on masks to ensure the safety of others.
While there are guidelines that clients need to meet, the pantry does not require a proof of income when seeking help. The Lakeview Pantry works with many different establishments, such as Target, Trader Joes, Starbucks, and more, to help meet their missions and help feed those in need.
Located across the street from the Sheridan Red Line stop, Lakeview Pantry is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 4–7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.
The pantry interacts with customers outside of its building with drive-up service, while others stand in line to pick up orders. The pantry temporarily operated out of Wrigley Field in the spring and summer when demand was high at the start of the pandemic.
“We talked with Cubs Charities and we used the concourse and some of the ballpens to store food and we would have volunteers putting boxes together,” said Cat Sullivan, Lakeview Pantry marketing coordinator. “It was a really good way to serve people.”
The Lakeview Pantry used to allow clients to come in and choose what they needed, but once the pandemic hit, they had to resort to a more curbside pickup approach.
How has the pandemic affected food pantries?
Due to COVID-19, the people of Chicago are experiencing unprecedented issues. Hunger insecurity being a major concern brought upon by the pandemic.
Many pantries have seen a significant increase in the need for food assistance, which highlights the importance of these local food pantries in different neighborhoods.
The Google Trends chart below gives a visual representation of the increased interest in food pantries in Chicago as a result of COVID-19.
“The demand was shocking,” Sullivan said. “It was about a 400 percent increase in demand during our peak” The Lakeview Pantry was able to help almost 200 thousand clients throughout the city of Chicago with 4 million meals, with 45 thousand new clients from this past year.
Sullivan said that the pantry used to serve about 80 to 90 households per day, but are now serving about 120 households per day.
Along with the pantry itself staying open during the pandemic, Lakeview Pantry has also been doing home deliveries for those who need it most. This includes the elderly, disabled, and those who are homebound. They also allow clients to fill out home delivery referrals in response to COVID-19 for those who are high risk.
Black and Latino families greatly affected by hunger crisis
The communities hit hard by this pandemic in many different aspects have primarily been the Black and Latino communities.
Black and Latino have a long history of being food insecure, but that has expanded with the recent events. Local food pantries in Chicago have seen such an increase in the need for food within Black and Latino neighborhoods, which has been growing due to COVID-19.
The local food pantries have been able to provide that support to families in need. With pantries in different neighborhoods (Pilsen, Lakeview, Ravenswood, etc.), they are able to be a convenient resource for families of all backgrounds.
What is the importance of having volunteers?
Without the help of volunteers, the food pantry would not be as successful as it has been. Volunteers are always welcome and encouraged to come out with the intent to make a difference in the community.
Due to the pandemic, volunteers are in high demand now more than ever. With the increased number of people facing food insecurity, the pantry is such an important source for those in need throughout Chicago’s communities.
Volunteering is not only a way to help the community but also helps understand the importance of food pantries in each community.
Jayde Mosley, a college student at Tennessee State University, said volunteering at the pantry has changed her perspective.
“I understood how important food pantries are and the role they play in society,” Mosley said. “Some people aren’t as fortunate as others and sometimes go through times of crisis.”
These local food pantries are able to provide healthy options to those in need, which is something most volunteers take pride in when they talk about the help they offer.
“Well, food pantries help provide and supply food and resources to people that are in need. Not only that, but they use healthy food initiatives to give family better options as well,” Mosley said when asked about what she views as important.
What else does the Lakeview Pantry provide?
Officials say the pantry is committed to providing for the community and after every visit, they give flowers to their clients in order to help brighten their day.
Chicagoan and volunteer Niamiah Bartlett, said “it is amazing to see the growth of food pantries throughout each community. That resource will always make me see the good in people. Whether you volunteer or donate, it doesn’t matter, because you are making that change in someone’s life.”
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How to Help
Reaching out to a local food pantry to volunteer will always be a significant way to get involved and help out those in need.
Although the current situation may get in the way of volunteering. There is always something that can be done. Fundraisers are often a great way to help out and also raise awareness to the food insecurity crisis in Chicago.
Food drives are just one of the many other ways that one can help those in need in their community. Gathering food for meals can help feed many families.
Local pantries also gladly accept donations. Donate money, food, goods (personal hygiene, bathroom and cleaning supplies) to show your support.
Aside from feeding the community, the Lakeview Pantry also has mental health and wellness services. Their services are short-term for dealing with a crisis, but they do try to help find long-term services for those who will need it. It’s a great temporary solution to those who need health services, but cannot afford one.
The Lakeview Pantry Contact Info: