By Jean Lotus
Check your door knocker for a green tag from the Girl Scouts because their annual Food Drive takes place on Saturday, Oct. 27. Scouts will be hanging more than 20,000 fliers to let residents of Oak Park and River Forest and Forest Park know about the drive, the largest of the year.
Residents are encouraged to leave their donations in bags outside their doors by 9 a.m. that Saturday and mark them "Food Pantry." They will be collected by about 500 local scouts, who will travel door-to-door picking up the food and toiletries.
The girls will be out on Saturday morning between 9 a.m. and noon. Later in the afternoon, older scouts will help sort the items gathered.
Especially needed are: canned meat, peanut butter, tuna, vegetables, soup, pasta, cereal as well as diapers, laundry soap, shaving cream, shampoo, toothpaste and hand/body lotion, according to the Girl Scouts.
"The food pantries really love the Girl Scout food drive because they get such a huge variety of stuff," said Food Drive Coordinator Lisa Files.
The Oak Park-River Forest Food Pantry made the "painful decision" this year to shrink its service boundaries from 28 zip codes to 12, according to a press release. Even so, 1,300 families continue to use the pantry.
Also, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture has more than halved the amount of standard staples: plain rice, vegetables and soup. The Oak Park pantry used to receive 9,000-12,000 pounds of food per month, but it's now down to about 4,500 from the USDA.
In 2011, the Scouts collected 26,000 pounds of food for the Oak Park pantry, plus $600.
"Last year they collected more money than the past," said Files. "I think the word is out that they can really stretch a dollar at the pantry."
Buying food from the Greater Chicago Food Depository is one way the Oak Park-River Forest Food Pantry takes care of needy families, especially near Thanksgiving and Christmas. For every dollar spent, according to the Food Pantry, the GCFD can provide $10 worth of food.