Monday, June 11, 2018 || Igor Studenkov || @maywoodnews
Featured image: Volunteers with the Westchester Food Pantry. | Westchester Food Pantry/Facebook
As more people from towns outside of Westchester rely on the Westchester Food Pantry’s services, some neighboring municipalities are stepping up to help the critical institution secure much-needed food and supplies.
Throughout May, the village of Broadview held a food drive for the pantry, which takes volunteers, cash donations and food donations from all over Proviso Township.
The pantry, which is located inside of Westchester Village Hall, 10300 Roosevelt Road in Westchester, serves food to those in need year-round and is on the front line of what’s become a national trend — the growth of poverty rates in the country’s suburbs.
According to data compiled by the Institute for Research on Poverty, between 2000 and 2015, the number of police living in poverty in the United States grew by 11.5 million people — with 5.7 million of those people, or 48 percent of that growth, located in the suburbs.
According to a Westchester Food Pantry fact sheet, one out of six Cook County residents are considered “food insecure,” which means that they don’t know how they’ll get their next meal. Sixty-nine percent of the pantry’s clients have incomes at or below the federal poverty level and 54 percent of its clients have an annual income of $10,000 or less.
Amanda Grant, the Westchester Food Pantry’s co-executive director and a District 209 school board memeber, said that the need for the pantry’s services actually increases during the summer, especially among households with kids. During the school year, those kids can take advantage of free or reduced school meals, which isn’t an option while the kids are on vacation, she explained.
The Westchester Food Pantry served 450 households last year. Those households’ average income was $13,659 a year. Nearly half of the pantry’s clientele lives in Bellwood. Most of those clients were seniors on fixed incomes and people with disabilities. The average age of those Bellwood clients was 66 years old.
Grant said that Westchester accounts for the second-highest proportion of clients while Broadview residents account for the third highest proportion.
According to the flier on the Village of Broadview’s website and the pantry’s official website, the pantry is always looking for unopened, non-perishable food items. It is particularly looking for cereal, oatmeal packets and canisters, grits, canned fruit, applesauce, pasta sauce, long pasta noodles, canned tuna and chicken, peanut butter, jelly, low-sodium soups, rice and baking mixes.
Food can be donated at Westchester Village Hall, as well as Westchester Park District Community Center, 10201 Bond Street, and the Mayfair Recreational Center, 10835 Wakefield Street. The donation bins are located in the lobby at all three locations.
The pantry also accepts monetary donations online here. Grant said that those donations are used to buy food from the Greater Chicago Food Depository. She also encouraged anyone from west suburbs and beyond to volunteer, both for regular tasks involved in running the pantry and special events.
For more information about Westchester Food Pantry, click here. VFP
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