Hunger hits home
By Steve Lord firstname.lastname@example.org October 21, 2012 5:06PM
Clients picking up holiday meals at the Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry on Monday, Nov. 21, 2011 are greeted by dozen of volunteers that help load the food into cars. | Steven Buyansky~Sun-Times Media
The Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry has seen a steadily rising demand over the past three years:
2010 — 1 million pounds of food distributed to 94,823 people
2011 — 1.5 million pounds of food distributed to 120,252 people
2012 — 1.5 million pounds so far, 2 million pounds expected by end of the year, to 146,241 people
Updated: November 23, 2012 6:06AM
AURORA — The citywide Aurora Food Drive begins its fifth year shortly in the midst of ongoing and increasing need at the food pantry.
“Business is booming, unfortunately,” said Marilyn Weisner, director of the Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry, beneficiary of the food drive. “There are people who are still out of work. They need assistance.
“If they’ve been out of work for a couple of years, they’ve exhausted other sources. If we can just help with food, they can use their resources for other things, like rent, and getting to work …”
In terms of numbers, the pantry’s distributions have increased steadily since 2010, when it distributed a million pounds of food to 94,823 individuals. That increased to 1.5 million pounds and 120,252 individuals in 2011.
Already this year, the pantry has matched that 1.5 million pounds, and projects to a distribution of 2 million pounds, to 146,241 individuals, by the end of 2012.
All of this has come at time when grants for buying food, as well as donations of food itself, from both the state and federal governments has been decreasing.
“This summer was very busy,” Weisner said. “Typically, we go down in the summer, but this summer, we didn’t. I don’t know why. But at holiday time, the numbers go up — between now and the end of the year.”
That’s why the food drive was designed for November, to make sure the food pantry shelves were stocked for the holidays, and beyond. Dan Dolan, of Dolan & Murphy real estate, one of the drive sponsors, brought the idea to Aurora five years ago from a successful model in Bloomington.
The drive has grown a little each year, and has again for 2012, with the addition of another grocery store in the area joining. That means four area grocery stores are participating in this year’s drive.
The two stores that have been with drive every year will be there again. They are Prisco’s Fine Foods, 1108 Prairie St., Aurora, and Cermak Fresh Market, 1250 N. Lake St., Aurora.
The Jewel Food Store at 1157 N. Eola Road, Aurora, will stay with the drive for its second year. And joining this year is the Jewel Food Store at Route 30 and Douglas Road in Oswego.
“We have four stores this year, which is great, but it means we need more volunteers,” Dolan said.
Volunteers not only help pick up food, and stock the food pantry warehouse, they hand out fliers advertising the food drive. The latter is of particular need, because past performance has shown that people buy more for the drive when the fliers are distributed.
The key times for handing out fliers are from 4 to 6 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays.
“When people are handing out fliers, we triple what we get,” Dolan said.
For 14 of those key busy times, The River radio station in Aurora, another food drive sponsor, will conduct live remotes.
Dolan points out that “anyone can help,” from adults to high school kids who might need community service hours.
Those interested in volunteering should call Cheryl Kessler at 630-801-8800, ext. 109, or send an e-mail to email@example.com.
It couldn’t be easier to participate — the food drive makes bags up ahead of time at $5, $10 or $15, and people need only purchase the pre-made bags.
The food pantry serves Aurora — beyond. It actually serves people in a five-county area — parts of Kane, DuPage, Kendall, DeKalb and Will counties.
Weisner pointed out that 41 percent of the food pantry’s clients are children under 18-years-old, and 35 percent are elementary school age. Some 8 percent are senior citizens.
“You have to make sure children eat well,” she said.
She said children learn better when they eat well, and new studies are showing that hungry children have more anxiety and are more aggressive, which could be part of the bullying problem at school.
Also, children with nutrition problems have lower immunities and get sick more often.
“This all costs society a lot of money in the end,” she said. “We pay more to solve these problems later.”