Thursday, July 22, 2010

Food Pantries: The Need is Still Great

In this morning's Daily Herald, I read an article about the Mount Prospect Food Pantry. Evidently, they are desperately in need of donations because the economy has significantly increased the demand for its services.

That got me to thinking . . . it's been awhile since I talked about how badly food pantries need our help all year long (and not just at Christmas or Thanksgiving).

With summer here, the demand on food pantries is greater because families that rely on the free and reduced-fee school lunches to help stretch their food stamp dollars don't have that safety net.

According to the Illinois Department of Human Services, a family of 4 can have a monthly gross income of no more than $2,389 ($28,668 gross annually) in order to qualify for food stamps. That's not a lot of money, especially in the Chicago area. So people who make too much to qualify for food stamps, but are poor, the working poor, also rely on food pantries to help them make ends meet.

If you're a long-time reader of Little Merry Sunshine, you have probably read about my own personal experience with getting food from the food pantry and you know supporting food pantries is personal to me.

In addition to non-expired food (this is key because they cannot give out expired food to clients), many food pantries also accept toiletries. The Wheeling Township Food Pantry has a list of the items they need. The Mount Prospect Food Pantry specifically needs cash donations and bottled juice, canned goods, dried goods, rice, baby diapers and paper goods, but they can't accept cans larger than 32 ounces.

I buy a few extra items each week to donate to the food pantry. Thanks to buy one, get one free sales and coupons, this often has zero impact on my budget. I collect the items and when I have a full bag, I run over to the food pantry.

As you begin to harvest your garden, you might also think about donating some of your excess fruits and veggies to your local food pantries. See the list of food pantries accepting produce here.

Think your tiny garden can't make a difference? Watch the video below to learn how 11-year-old Katie Stagliano is making a difference in her community. She was on CNN today and has started Katie's Krops.

If you're not in Arlington Heights or Mt. Prospect, you can find food pantries local to you at Feeding America's website.

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