GLENDALE HEIGHTS – Rows of fresh food items cover the walls at the Glen Ellyn Food Pantry, where volunteers and staff members help deliver and organize items that include produce, meats, dairy, breads, pastries and more.
These deliveries come from food banks and local grocery stores, and soon, food from Glendale Heights' annual Community Food Drive will line the shelves as well.
“Summer months are the most difficult for food banks. That’s when they have the lowest supply,” said Jason Taetsch, public relations director for Move For Hunger. “All children are home from school. Those at risk for hunger rely on food banks for a subsidized meal.”
That subsidized meal is most likely the only meal a child in need will have throughout the day, Taetsch said.
Nationwide, there are 48 million people who are at risk for hunger, according to a 2012 Map the Meal Gap Study by Feeding America, a national hunger relief charity. In Illinois, there are more than 1.8 million food-insecure people, with 661,000 being children.
The Glendale Heights Community Food Drive, which began June 2 and ends Friday, aims to fight these statistics.
Donations from the food drive will be delivered to the Glen Ellyn Food Pantry next month by Move For Hunger, a national organization that delivers unwanted, nonperishable food items to food banks.
Throughout the month of June, collection boxes have been located inside the Glendale Heights Senior Center, Sports Hub and Police Department.
Gina Campagnola, event coordinator for Move For Hunger, said more than 6,000 pounds of food were collected at last year’s food drive in Glendale Heights.
Glendale Heights Police Department Community Outreach Specialist Tanya Macko said the department chose to donate to the Glen Ellyn Food Pantry because last year, the pantry took in many families in need from Glendale Heights.
“The pantry has been more than helpful,” Macko said. “It’s important for us to give back.”
She said she hopes food donations this year will at least match the amount that was collected in 2013.
Clients have to make appointments in order to visit the Glen Ellyn Food Pantry, 493 Forest Ave. in Glen Ellyn. However, those who arrive without an appointment don’t leave without food, said Tricia Stephens, the pantry's associate director.
“We have emergency food bags filled with nonperishable items, such as soup, macaroni and cheese, cereal, et cetera,” Stephens said. “We have clients that don’t have kitchens. When they come in, we’ll give them whatever they need to hold them over.”
The pantry is part of the Food Recovery Program, which matches up local grocery stores with a food pantry for donations, said Rich Wloszek, food recovery relationship manager for the pantry.
As part of the program, the Glen Ellyn Food Pantry partners with stores and restaurants such as Walmart, Jewel Osco, Aldi, Fresh Market, Panera Bread, Whole Foods and Flour Barrel, Wloszek said.
“Walmart had 100 boxes for us on June 13,” he said. “That’s a lot of food. We were running out of space.”
Stephens said most of the pantry’s clients are senior citizens who are on a fixed income.
Food pantry client Isaac Lewis, 72, of Wheaton, said the pantry has a variety of healthy food choices, and he likes the fresh produce at the Glen Ellyn Food Pantry better than what he's found at other pantries he's visited.
Lewis, who has been coming to the pantry since 2005, said it is a needed part of the local community, especially for those residents who are unemployed.
“The economy is bad. As a senior citizen, you’ve got to make a choice,” he said.