Ann R. looked through the bin of fresh corn hand-picked at a local farm by Food for Greater Elgin volunteers, grabbing a few for her cart before selecting other fresh produce in the pantry’s vast warehouse.
She heard about the west side food pantry from the Elgin Community Crisis Center and was able to get a week’s worth of groceries on a recent late summer day.
Her family is one of the 1,200 Elgin and South Elgin families the Food for Greater Elgin assists on an average month. The food pantry serves 5,500 people monthly, said Susan Ericson, executive director.
Food for Greater Elgin is participating in Hunger Action Month, a national effort to bring attention to hunger.
Since the economic meltdown of 2008, food pantries around the country have seen the number of people in need steadily increase. Food for Greater Elgin was created to answer the need locally when it hit a critical level, Ericson said.
“There were hundreds of people who were going out of Elgin to get food so community leaders knew there had to be a larger approach to feeding people,” she said. “There was so much need not being met.”
Food for Greater Elgin continues to take action to address hunger in the Elgin and South Elgin area. And it will soon expand to East Dundee. This month, the pantry is hoping people take action.
A few ways to help is by becoming a volunteer. The pantry has five distributions, two during the day, two at night and one on the weekend, Ericson said. Volunteers are needed to assist people during the distribution but also to help set up the warehouse, she said.
People can also donate to Food of Greater Elgin through food drives, fundraisers or individual cash donations.
Food for Greater Elgin is always fundraising and will soon launch Change for Hunger. Last year, the campaign raised $15,000 through area schools where children collected a $500 donation by gathering change which was then matched by corporations.
A donation of 75 cents helps feed a family for an entire day, said Michelle Frampton, director of community outreach.
Change for Hunger was a “tangible, exciting way for them [children] to make a difference,” Frampton said.
A gift of $20 can feed a family for a week, Ericson said.
Cash donations can be tripled when pantries purchase food through food banks, like the Northern Illinois Food Bank, Ericson said. If you buy a box of spaghetti for $1 to donate, the food pantry can purchase a case of spaghetti with that $1 donation, she said.
Food for Greater Elgin operates a bit differently than traditional food pantries. There is a new Resource Center that will pull together other agencies and businesses offering help, like health screenings.
The warehouse looks like a big box store with canned goods stacked in neat rows. There is bread, frozen meat and fresh produce from area grocery stores and the food bank. Recently, Muller Pinehurst Dairy began donating 800 gallons of milk a month through Northern Illinois Food Bank’s Milk2MyPlate program.
While volunteers assist clients, the food pantry has a client choice approach. There are grocery carts and families can chose what items they want or need, Ericson said.
“It’s very dignified and there’s less food waste because they chose what they want,” she said.
Clients do not need to have a referral or fill out a lot of paperwork.
“We are very client friendly. We believe in not putting obstacles in front of people,” Ericson said. “We don’t ask for five different documents to get food. We feel if they are coming to the food pantry, they need it.”
Ericson has seen the face of hunger change over her career. In the past, people who needed help tended to be at poverty level, she said. The loss of jobs and underemployment has altered that profile. “The working class have become the working poor,” she said. “It’s very humbling. It’s very hard for people who once donated or volunteering to come to a food pantry.”
In Elgin and South Elgin, one in 10 people do not have proper access to food, Ericson said. Last year, the food pantry distributed over a million pounds of food, she said.
Food for Greater Elgin is focused on providing a dignified approach toward fighting hunger, she said.
“I like that they are nice,” said Ann R. as she bagged up the cart full of food she picked out for her family.Tags: Food for Greater Elgin
How to help
Debbie McGuire and Tony Eck are regular volunteers at Food for Greater Elgin. The two help families select items or answer questions.
Eck is a volunteer captain while McGuire is a shift supervisor.
Volunteers are the lifeblood for the west side pantry, Executive Director Susan Ericson said. Volunteers contributed 13,332 hours last year, she said.
This month, the food pantry is commemorating Hunger Action Month and looking for volunteers, donations and help in getting the word out about the fight against hunger.
To volunteer for a distribution or delivery shift, contact Michelle Frampton, 847-931-9330, ex. 306 or visit Food for Greater Elgin. Corporate, civic, school and religious groups are welcome to volunteer. Volunteers must be age 12 years and older.
Food for Greater Elgin is also selling “I Helped Fight Hunger” wristbands. Ten wristbands are available for a $60 donation, which will feed three family. Other amounts are 20 wristbands for $100 and 100 wristbands for $500, which will feed 25 families. For more information contact Daryl Rubin at 847-931-9330, ex. 314.
If you are an Elgin or South Elgin resident in need of assistance, contact the pantry at the general phone number.