Lakeview Pantry Update
Lakeview Pantry is on track to distribute more than 1.5 million lbs. — more than 750 tons — of food in fiscal 2015 (April 1, 2014–March 31, 2015) through its two service sites (3831 North Broadway and 1414 West Oakdale) and its Home Delivery program. September 2014 was one of the busiest months in the past two years: The Pantry brought in 137,778 lbs. of food for distribution, up from a monthly average of 130,859 lbs. The number of client visits for food also continues to climb and will probably top 40,000 before the fiscal year is over.
The Pantry is making significant gains in other areas as well. The Social Services program is developing new ways to help people find work and to access the resources they need to get their lives back on track. Because its client population is shifting northward from Lakeview into Uptown, the Pantry has expanded the northern boundary of its service area in stages from Irving Park Boulevard to Montrose Avenue. And the Development Department reports that it is on track to significantly exceed fundraising goals for the second fiscal year in a row.
The Pantry’s clients are all low-income people who live in the area bounded by Fullerton on the south, Damen on the west, Lake Michigan on the east, and Montrose Avenue. But the Pantry, which has grown significantly since its founding, in 1970, is very visible, both in its presence on North Broadway and when one is doing an Internet search for food assistance. As a result, the number of people coming to the Pantry from outside its service area is rising steadily and will show an increase of about 7% this fiscal year. In fact, people come to the Pantry from all over Chicago, and from the suburbs — and even from Northwest Indiana and Southeast Wisconsin. The Pantry serves all first-time visitors with two weeks’ worth of food and, if they live outside the Pantry’s service area, refers them to an agency nearer to their home.
Almost half (48%) of the Pantry’s clients have an annual income of $12,000 or less.
To put this in perspective: The current state income guideline for receipt of food through the Greater Chicago Food Depository is $21,588 a year for a household of one and more, of course, for families. The Pantry does not ask clients for proof of income, but they do sign a form attesting that they meet those guidelines.
About 30% of clients are working, many of them in part-time or low-paying jobs; 46% are either disabled or retired. Current data show that 5.3% of the clients in the Pantry’s food distribution programs are homeless, meaning that they do not have an address, are staying at a shelter, or are living on the streets. About 12% of the Pantry’s clients are veterans.
Many clients (46%) said in a survey that they had to choose between buying food and paying rent in the previous year, and 39% had to choose between buying food and buying needed medications. These choices no doubt became even more difficult this year with the reduction in benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (a.k.a. food stamps) and the termination early this year of long-term benefits to the unemployed.
Distributing food to hungry people remains the Pantry’s principal “business,” and the Pantry maintains a number of sources for food in order to keep a steady supply. About 40% of its food comes from the Food Depository, which distributes food on behalf of several government agencies and also acts as a wholesale distributor for items such as milk and eggs. Retailers also contribute; three Trader Joe’s stores donate an astonishing 37% of the Pantry’s food.
The food distribution program functions six days a week, three at each site. Visitors receive a two-week supply of groceries once per month; a typical allotment includes fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, eggs, dairy products, bread, and non-perishable items, along with hygiene supplies and clothing. For the homeless or those who lack cooking facilities, the Pantry provides “no cook” baskets that contain items with easy-to-open containers and ready-to-eat foods.
However, the food supply can fluctuate. For example, the Food Depository offered no meats or frozen high-protein items for three weeks recently, which meant the Pantry had to purchase these supplies from other sources, a significant expense. Also, the continuing drought in California has also affected the price and availability of produce. Meanwhile, client activity and demand at the Pantry’s East (main) site was almost 12% greater in September 2014 than in September 2013.
In a related activity, the Pantry has doubled its nutrition education offerings in which licensed professionals work with ingredients from the Pantry’s inventory. The “Healthy Bites” program is held during regular distribution hours, and free samples are shared. “Cooking Class and Nutrition Night” sessions, held at other times, are a demonstration and education opportunity.
The Home Delivery program accommodates clients who are unable to come to a Pantry site to receive food. The allotments include specialized packages for people with diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease. Home Delivery frequently receives inquiries from people who learn of the program through the Pantry’s website (http://https://www.lakeviewpantry.org), from other social service agencies, or by word of mouth. The program has made almost 1,000 deliveries since April 1.
The manager of Social Services holds more than 700 client meetings a year, helping people find housing or employment, counseling them on other issues, and referring them to other agencies for specialized services. Most clients seeking jobs are either those with little workplace experience who need help with basic skills or people with many years of professional experience, and usually a college degree, who are among the long-term unemployed. The Social Services program also provides occasional loans and grants; checks are always made payable to specific vendors, not clients. The manager of Social Services is a licensed clinical professional counselor; her license permits her to practice independently and supervise interns.
More than 800 individual volunteers and more than 250 volunteer groups give more than 28,000 hours of their time to Lakeview Pantry each year, effectively doubling the Pantry’s “people power.” In September, for example, 324 volunteers pitched in and worked 2,636 hours on behalf of their neighbors. And the Development Department, in collaboration with the Director of Volunteers, has launched a program in which 45 volunteers will be trained as speakers representing the Pantry and as managers of other volunteers at community events.
The Development Department, which raised $1,448,517 in FY14 (14% over budget), reports that total combined revenue from individuals, foundations, and corporations is significantly ahead of projections for the current fiscal year as well. Events also play a significant role in the department’s efforts; for example, the Pantry hosted an elegant evening in September at Brindille, which the Chicago Tribune called “the Best Restaurant to open in 2013.”
In sum, Lakeview Pantry is making significant progress on all fronts, and the outlook for the long term is good. New challenges and opportunities will certainly arise, but the staff remains dedicated to fulfilling the Pantry’s vision of being a stable presence in the communities it serves, and a model of compassionate, effective, and collaborative service delivery.
Lakeview Pantry Update November 2014 Page 2