Faced with surging demand and costs, the Oak Park-River Forest Food Pantry will no longer be handing out free hams and turkeys for Christmas and Thanksgiving.
The past three years, lines have snaked around the block at First United Church of Oak Park, as pantry clients showed up in droves for the main dish of their holidays. The food pantry purchased about 800 hams and turkeys the first year, but they'd have to buy twice as many in 2011 to satisfy the need.
Kathy Russell, executive director of the food pantry, said they spent $16,000 last year on the program, and would need to spend even more this year.
"There's no way we're going to be able to buy 1,600 turkeys. That would be way outrageous," she said. "Plus, we need to focus on feeding all these people on a regular basis because they're coming to us for their daily sustenance."
Since they only had enough turkeys to serve half their clients, last year the pantry had to hold a lottery a month or so before Thanksgiving, according to Michele Zurakowski, director of operations. Clients would draw a slip of paper out of a box, and if it had a picture of a turkey on it, they'd take home a bird.
The program caused tons of logistical problems, too, requiring 100 volunteers, police assistance to direct traffic and a little bit of muscle to move around more than 10,000 pounds of meat.
"It's a massive production effort," Zurakowski said.
Subtracting the $16,000 the food pantry spent last year and the $24,000 they spent a couple of years ago on holiday food certificates, they will instead address clients' hunger on a daily basis.
However, the food pantry will include items for holiday dinners in the most recent allotment, such as stuffing, sweet potatoes, gravy, corn and cranberries.
Russell emphasized that supporters shouldn't rush in to donate turkeys to keep the program alive. Rather, the pantry is seeking monetary donations as they start to ramp up their annual fundraising drive, seeking contributions by the end of December.
The food pantry has much greater buying power than the average consumer, Russell said. A dollar in donations can buy $8 in food from the Chicago Food Depository. Rather than donating one turkey, a similar cash donation would allow the food pantry to feed three families for two weeks, she said.
To make a donation, visit oprffoodpantry.org/donate, or mail a check to 848 Lake St., Oak Park, IL 60301.
Answer Book 2019
To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2019 Answer Book, please click here.
Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.
|Submit Letter To The Editor|
|Place a Classified Ad|