Looking for a good cause to contribute to this holiday season? With Christmas just weeks away, and Thanksgiving barely behind us, this is a time when many of us count our blessings and think about ways we can give, especially to those in need.
Next week, a food pantry is slated to open at the Anne M. Jeans School in suburban Willowbrook. This is the second one to operate in DuPage County. The first opened in West Chicago.
Organizers hope that setting up the food bank at a school will mean less stigma for needy clients. Schools are places most families are familiar with, so they can shop for what they need in an environment where they're less likely to feel alienated.
Before Thanksgiving, the food repository gave away 300 turkey boxes to families in need to kick off its new endeavor.
Burr Ridge School District 180 donated the space. This outreach is part of a growing nationwide trend of running food pantries within local schools to help those in need in a safe, comfortable environment.
Not far from Jeans Elementary, there's a 1,200-unit complex of subsidized apartments. According to the District Superintendent, 86% of the district's families are low-income, so the food pantry is in a prime location to serve them. He noted that parents encounter less stress and kids can do better in school when they don't have to worry about getting enough to eat.
Families will have access to a considerable selection of groceries. While some food banks can only distribute non-perishables, the Willowbrook location will provide fresh produce, milk, meat, and eggs in addition to the typical bread and canned products. Recipients will be able to come in and select what they want, just as they do in the grocery store. Hours of operation are 4-6:30 pm. every Wednesday.
Program participants can obtain other items, such as toiletries, that can't be bought with food stamps.
The threat of hunger is a real possibility for many children in the area, as the cost of living in DuPage County is high.
The Northern Illinois Food Bank supplied a start-up grant for the initiative, and 10 local retailers also contributed to the effort. Their generosity provided refrigeration, shelving, and a six-month supply of food. Some retailers will continue to donate through partnerships with the food pantry.
This is a great start, and I'm excited to see this get off the ground, especially during the holiday season when many of us are more "charitably-inclined."
If you'd like to donate, you can bring your contributions to the Memorial Building, 19 E. Chicago Ave. in Hinsdale, from 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m.- noon on Saturdays.
And let's continue to remember them after the holidays. Food pantries sometimes struggle to keep their shelves stocked during "off-times," when donating isn't the first thing on a lot of our minds.
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