A relatively new partnership with Elmhurst Jewel-Osco stores has been a godsend to locals who rely on Elmhurst Yorkfield Food Pantry for help feeding their families. But the pantry needs your help in keeping the flow of food coming.
"About a year ago, we were approached by the two Elmhurst Jewel stores and asked if we would be part of a food recovery program," pantry volunteer Jacki Lawrence said. "Instead of throwing tons of frozen meat, fresh produce, dairy goods and baked goods in the dumpster, we now go to both stores three times a week and pick the food up for distribution to our clients the next day."
Volunteers drive the pantry van to Jewel, fill it with hundreds of pounds of food and deliver it back to the pantry, where many more volunteers process it and put it on the shelves. More volunteers are needed to drive the van or ride along and help in loading. It's a physical job, Lawrence said.
"We'd like to have two people go to the Jewel each of the three shifts," she said.
Volunteers report to the pantry at about 11:45 a.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays to pick up the van, head out to the first store, load up, unload at the pantry, then head back out to the second store. The whole process takes about an hour.
"It's quite an amazing thing, really," Lawrence said. "Especially taking into consideration how much stuff we are saving from going into landfills and (placing) into the homes of hungry local families."
She said on most days, clients are able to take at least 10 pieces of frozen meat, including whole chickens, large packages of ground beef or even the occasional leg of lamb. Clients also are allowed unlimited baked items, like breads, cakes, pies, donuts and cookies, and many days they can get milk, eggs, yogurt and fresh produce.
"For us to accomplish this each week, we rely on many volunteers," Lawrence said. "Ideally, we would have the same driver work a few times each month. Currently, I have two men that go on Wednesdays and Fridays, but would like to offer them some relief occasionally. Our Saturday schedule has many holes."
She said they have quite a few volunteers who are able to deal with it all once it's in the pantry, but the stronger drivers may be asked to stay around and break down the boxes, as well.
"We even offer bonus pay—a loaf of french bread on occasion," she said.
Elmhurst Yorkfield Food Pantry is located next door to Yorkfield Presbyterian Church, 1099 S. York Road. Those interested in helping out with this worthwhile cause can contact Lawrence at (708) 254-1741, or firstname.lastname@example.org.