GLEN ELLYN – Out of the clients served by the Glen Ellyn Food Pantry, about 30 percent are from Glen Ellyn.
Clients receive food such as meats, starches and some condiments and snacks, and now, thanks to a project by GardenWorks and two local Girl Scout Daisy troops, the pantry will be able to offer a wide variety of fresh produce.
“Our clients just really love the fresh vegetables,” said Terri Venzon, pantry coordinator. “It’s like they won the lottery.”
The food pantry serves about 90 families every week from Glen Ellyn, Lombard, Carol Stream, Lisle, Wheaton and Glendale Heights, Venzon said.
On Monday, 24 kindergarten Girl Scout Daisies from Forest Glen Elementary School planted two 15-by-30-foot vegetable gardens on plots donated by the Glen Ellyn Park District. The project was headed by Tina Koral, the founder of GardenWorks, a grassroots project that provides families in need with the means to grow their own vegetable gardens.
“I think it’s important for them to understand that there are kids like them who don’t have food all the time, and they can help,” said Koral, who also serves as one of the troop leaders.
GardenWorks builds gardens for families served by the Glen Ellyn Food Pantry, Bridge Communities in Glen Ellyn and the People’s Resource Center in Westmont and Wheaton and shows them how to grow their own produce. The group’s latest project gives clients who are unable to manage a garden the same access to fresh vegetables.
During the summer, the Glen Ellyn Food Pantry typically receives donations from individuals of vegetables that are too expensive or unavailable at local grocery stores, Venzon said. Based on the pantry’s own purchases, available produce year-round may include apples, bananas, potatoes and onions.
The gardens planted by the Daisy troops will provide varieties of tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, squash, herbs and corn to those families, Koral said.
Located on plots at the Village Green Community Gardens, 130 S. Lambert Road, the gardens previously were used by the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener program, said Renae Frigo, Glen Ellyn Park District naturalist.
After the program opted not to use the plots this summer, Superintendent of Parks and Planning Dan Hopkins reached out to Koral to see if she’d be interested in using the area for GardenWorks.
Hopkins said the park district could have generated revenue from those plots but instead chose to donate the use of them to the local organization, which is welcome to use them for the foreseeable future.
“We have others on a wait list, but we felt this was a good cause,” Hopkins said.
Now that the vegetables have been planted by the Girl Scout Daisies, GardenWorks volunteers will take turns tending to the gardens every week until the fall. Koral said she expects the first produce to be ready in July, and vegetables will continue to be harvested through mid-October.
Since the Glen Ellyn Food Pantry is funded by private donations and receives no federal or state money, this food will help more people to be served, Venzon said.
“Every donation really, really counts,” she said.
Note to Readers: A version of this story containing an error previously ran in print and online. About 30 percent of the clients served by the food pantry are from Glen Ellyn. The pantry does not serve about a third of the residents in Glen Ellyn. The article has been corrected to reflect this information.