When was the last time you went to the store and spent less than you thought you would? Maybe there was an unexpected Buy One Get One Free sale. Or perhaps chicken breasts were the store’s “loss leader” that week and you love chicken. Whatever made it happen, I bet you were happier than you imagined because you got a bargain.

For the 3,192 people in Oak Park and River Forest living at or below the poverty level (2000 Census data), finding bargains is the difference between being hungry and eating.

You can help 100 people get a bargain on their food this month, and it won’t even cost you $100. Try $20. Really! I know, you’re thinking the $20 you spend at the grocery store isn’t going to feed 10 people, let alone 100. But $20 can feed 100 families if spent the right way.

We know because we do it at the OP-RF Food Pantry every month.

Most folks living at the poverty line have some income to put towards food. They can manage to feed their families for most of the month. But with rising food costs, more and more people are running out of food faster than they can afford to buy it.

A study conducted by Michigan State University (www.endhungerinamerica.org) estimates that people living at the poverty level need an additional 234 pounds of food annually beyond what they can afford to buy in order to meet their nutrition needs. Multiply 234 pounds by 3,192 people and you get the whopping total of 746,928 pounds of food needed to feed the hungry in our community. With even pasta costing over a dollar a pound now, who’s got the kind of money to fill that need?

We do. The OP-RF Food Pantry participates with the Greater Chicago Food Depository to purchase food far, far more cheaply than any of us could individually. They purchase food near the end of its peak at an incredible savings. In turn, they pass those bargains on to us-so many bargains, in fact, that this week we bought 5,664 pounds of food for just over $800. That’s enough food to supplement the diets of nearly 20 percent of our area’s hungry for this two-week period.

While there is nothing quite so viscerally satisfying as donating a bag of food you have lovingly selected from the grocery store, we’d like to ask you to consider another way this month. That $20 you spent at the grocery store will feed one family a couple of meals. This week, the OP-RF Food Pantry spent someone’s $20 donation and bought enough beans, rice and sausages to feed 100 families.

And because it is April, that $20 will eventually feed even more people. Throughout April, the OP-RF Food Pantry is competing in a grant program sponsored by philanthropist Alan Feinstein. He’s giving away a million dollars to agencies like ours who are working to fight hunger. Every donation (of goods or cash) that we receive will count towards our grand total. At the end of the month, Alan Feinstein will divide up that million dollars proportionately to all the agencies who participated in the program. So your $20 will not only feed 100 families, it will also help us get more of Feinstein’s million dollars.

You can, of course, still donate food. We always love the unique items people give from their hearts. But perhaps instead of donating all food, you or your children could select one can of your specially loved food and rubber band a $10 or $20 check to it. Kids might want to put a portion of their allowance in an envelope taped to a box of mac and cheese. You’ll still get that warm feeling of sharing something special, and we’ll be able to feed many more people thanks to your love. (Plus your contribution is tax-deductible, so include your address and we’ll send you a letter for your taxes.)

Thank you for any contributions you are able to make to help end hunger. We are truly grateful to live in a community of people who care so deeply about the needs of others.

To donate non-perishable food or toiletries, stop by the OP-RF Food Pantry at 848 Lake St. (housed in the basement of First United Church-enter the basement through the parking lot at the rear) on Saturdays from 9 a.m to noon or the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of the month from 3 to 4:45 p.m. Checks may be sent to OP-RF Food Pantry, P.O. Box 3365, Oak Park 60303.

If you’d like further information about the OP-RF Food Pantry, please contact Michele at flanikowski@sbcglobal.net. For volunteer opportunities, contact Kathy at krussell1310@sbcglobal.net  

Michele Zurakowski and Kathy Russell
Operations managers, OP-RF Food Pantry

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