Oak Park-River Forest Food Pantry downsizing


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By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

The Oak Park-River Forest Food Pantry will slash the number of communities it serves next year to make up for cuts to its budget from the federal government.

Fourteen communities will no longer be served by the pantry starting Jan. 1 to make up for a $50,000 drop in what the agency receives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The eliminated towns include Melrose Park, Brookfield and North Riverside, which all together make up about 35 percent of the pantry's 15,723 clients.

"It's a decision [between] stretching our resources to serve everybody not as well, or tightening our belt and our service area and continuing to provide good service," said Kathy Russell, executive director of the food pantry.

All the communities being eliminated are already served by another food pantry, according to Russell. The agency is being hit on all fronts, as its client list has swelled by 27 percent because of the recession, while food costs have also surged by 25 percent.

In addition to dropping the 14 communities from its list, Russell said they plan to ramp up their efforts to "rescue" soon-to-be-tossed food from local stores, along with seeking more donations.

The other communities cut from the food pantry's list are Bellwood, Broadview, Maywood, Westchester, Northlake, Hillside, Berkeley, Stone Park, LaGrange Park, Lyons and Stickney.

Reader Comments

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Araceku from Chicago  

Posted: December 3rd, 2012 3:47 PM

I am very greatful for OP Food pantry for the food distrbution offered to people in need.

OP Taxpayer  

Posted: October 13th, 2011 8:26 AM

Well said Bob

Bob Haisman from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 13th, 2011 12:42 AM

I must respond to "OntheVerge". I don't know what it is about people - We can see and experience the same things and come to such different conclusions. I have volunteered at 'The Pantry' for years...usually on very busy Saturday mornings. My take is very,very different than 'verge'. I remember so many Saturdays coming to open the pantry -- two hours before it's doors opened for food distribution. I would be amazed to see people already in line for an emergency bag of food. Every Saturday - warm, cold rain, snow - the line for food was out of First United's parking lot and down Kenilworth and curving down Lake Street in front of our church. On their own, orderly, good natured, cold, grateful people lined up waiting for food. Each and every time I thought - Only in America! Only in America - could we allow Hedge Fund Managers and Fat Cat Bankers ruin our economy yet expect to be bailed out by the tax payer and demand to pay less taxes then me and expect a obscene bonus! Yet some people would prefer to denigrate the needy, refuse to see what is before their own eyes and choose to see some one who they think is undeserving "scamming" the system. They ignore the hundreds of needy families getting emergency food for their kids and focus on what they perceive as people "taking advantage". Funny I volunteer at 'the pantry' and see people being checked in VIA a computerized screening process that is 'means based'. FP Clients need to show a picture ID. They are limited to one visit a month. The food pantry receives no tax dollars funding. It has 100's of small contributors helping supply people with some emergency food for their kids! The OPRF Food pantry is non-religious (no religious test to get food) even though it is in the basement of a church. It is non-religious and yet it is "The Sermon on the Mound" come alive. In my years of volunteering there I have only seen good. I have seen folks helping folks - down on their luck - and giving them a bag of food.

Kathy Russell, Executive Director from Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry  

Posted: October 7th, 2011 2:42 PM

Further, the client mentioned in some of the email comments could have been either someone falsely bragging, not admitting to a particular need or may have been sent as a "proxy" to the Pantry to pick up food for a family member who is a client. Regarding the Pantry's "lottery" system for service. The lottery system at the Pantry was designed to prevent hours of waiting in line prior to the Pantry's opening. Food will not run out during a particular distribution,

Kathy Russell, Executive Director from Oak Park  

Posted: October 7th, 2011 2:40 PM

Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry abides by the rules set by the USDA program regarding income requirements ( http://www.oprffoodpantry.org/services/). Additionally, we at Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry make a conscious decision to suspend judgments and assumptions about our clients and their perceived need for hunger relief. We have learned that there are many varied reasons for a person's entry into food insecurity, some by poor choices some by consequence. Neither is for us to judg


Posted: October 7th, 2011 9:18 AM

It is so unfortunate that certain people always have to find a way to take advantage of situations when they are free. It used to be when you went there, you were given a number in numerical order but because a lot of people were handing their numbers to their friends or whatever, now you are given a random number. So even if you are first in line, you could get Number 200. I've seen people who aren't even from the community worm their way in even though they were told they couldn't.Unbeliebable


Posted: October 7th, 2011 9:10 AM

As someone who is a grateful recipient of the generosity of the OPRF Food Pantry, I must comment on people who seem to be taking advantage of this life saving organization. While waiting in line for the doors to open, a man behind me was on his Smartphone planning his trip to Reno, Nevada to go gambling. Plus he stated he would see when he could get off work to go. And he was dressed quite well. He brought a shopping cart (he was alone) How does this happen? Aren't you suppose to be indigent?

Oak Park  

Posted: October 7th, 2011 7:20 AM

All of these communities should be growing food on public land and teach people to grow their own. Fruit trees, root vegetables, beans, greens, etc. can be grown, stored, and consumed throughout the year.

scooter83 from Oak Park  

Posted: October 6th, 2011 10:50 PM

I would like to donate to the food pantry and have every year I've lived in OP, but with the HUGE increase in my real estate taxes this year, I will not be able to. It's sad.

Mary Ellen Eads from oak park  

Posted: October 6th, 2011 10:45 PM

Perhaps a regional distribution system would be preferable, especially for perishables. Traveling from, say, Hillside to Oak Park or vice versa, for example, could be difficult for someone low on funds. Why not distribute equally across all communities at specified times and distribution points.

Melissa from OakPark.com/EmpoweredParent  

Posted: October 6th, 2011 8:38 PM

Tonight the Interfaith Impact's 2011 Hunger Banquet took place at Dominican. $1 donated to the OPRF Food Pantry can purchase $11 worth of food, serving two families. You can donate your dollar . . . or more by visiting this site: http://oprffoodpantry.org/donate/

Sarah Corbin  

Posted: October 6th, 2011 7:24 PM

This is so sad. It makes me wish I personally had the money to cover the difference. I don't even come close to being that person. But I wish I were.

Parker from Oak Park  

Posted: October 6th, 2011 6:02 PM

Costs up 25%, need up 27%: This is what should be the Wed. Journal headline, the PDOP marquee feed, the blurb on the sign post, the chalk on the sidewalk, the thought in all our heads as we sit down to a feed. Hunger is everybody's business. Food pantries serve our neediest fellow citizens. If you're reading this, write a check as a way to count your blessings.

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