Continuing its War on Hunger campaign, Thorton Township held its annual food drive last week.
“We handed out over 2000 boxes of food,” said Bob Storman, a Thornton Township spokesperson. “We also distributed over 300 boxes of food to senior sites. A lot of the seniors can’t get out so we had box trucks make the deliveries and take the food to each apartment.”
Food provided by the township each year comes from the Greater Chicago Food Depository, 4100 W. 42nd Pl., public donations and some of it is purchased with money from the Thorton Township budget and is stored in our food pantry in Harvey, Storman said.
People were prequalified back in Oct. but those in need who were not prequalified also received a box of food.
“When we first started the program, we provided food to 250 to 300 individuals a month,” Storman said. “Today, we provide food for over 5000 individuals a month. For a south suburb food pantry, that is huge. No other food depository delivers food in those quantities. We are the largest. We do the most because we have the most resources.”
The number of people, who showed up to receive food, illustrates the great level of need Storman said.
“We have families in desperate need and crying out for help,” Storman said. “Even the churches are sending people to us for food assistance because they do not have the resources to accommodate the amount of people coming to them for help.”
Ham, poultry, pasta, canned food, fresh produce, bread, cranberry sauce and juices were some of the items in the baskets.
A study by the Feeding America organization shows Chicago’s South Side and surrounding areas as the most harshly hit by the concept of what’s called “food insecurity,” defined as uncertainty about where a family’s next meal is coming from, or the occasional need to skimp on food in order to pay other bills.
The Illinois 2nd Congressional District, which stretches from 53rd Street in Chicago through the Far South Side and surrounding suburbs, has a food insecurity rate of 27.8 percent. Only Illinois’ 1st Congressional District on Chicago’s South Side has a higher rate.
Marlene Hill, a co-director of the food pantry at the Calumet City Resource Center was recently quoted in a Northwest Indiana Times story as saying that she also noticed an increase in the number of people seeking food and that in recent months some 900 to 1,000 people sought help from the food pantry.
Hill attributed some of the increase to the winter holidays, saying some people need help in getting more food to help stretch their limited dollars to cover other expenses.
“We’re helping to supplant what they can do with what they have in these difficult times,” she said.
Karen Allen, of the Lansing Community Pantry, said her clients have doubled during the past year to about 160 families receiving food assistance each month.
Allen said some of the increase in Lansing is due to families moving to the suburb from public housing in Chicago, but that much of it is due to people losing their jobs and being unable to find new work.
“We have many people coming through here who never thought they’d be in a line seeking food,” Allen stated in a recent interview.
Thornton Township also held its annual toy drive.
“This year our toy drive was great,” Storman said. “We helped over 1000 families and gave away over 3000 toys that were wrapped by volunteers and staff workers. We call it the Miracle on 162nd St.”
Toys were collected from businesses, schools and other individuals who donated them.
“We still have donations coming in and we still have people coming in to receive toys,” Storman said. “We’ll be giving them away until they run out. We want to do our part to make sure families have food on the table and gifts under the tree.”