As the COVID-19 crisis continues to unfold and layoffs and business closures mount, food pantries all over Illinois are bracing for increased need.
The Illinois Broadcasters Association, to which WTTW belongs, joined forces Thursday with the organization Feeding Illinois to urge viewers and listeners to pitch in and fill the shelves at Illinois food banks in this time of intense need.
Kate Maehr, executive director and CEO of the Greater Chicago Food Depository, says that in just the past week, Illinois food banks have already seen an uptick in the number of people contacting them about food assistance. “Not only are we seeing more individuals showing up at food pantries and soup kitchens, we have calls through the roof for people who have never had to go to food pantry before trying to figure out how to get help, as well as people who are calling our SNAP hotline needing assistance in getting food stamps,” she said.
Maehr points out that this crisis is not going to be a short-term one, and that need is likely to increase with time. “Every single food pantry in the state of Illinois needs financial support, needs volunteers, needs food donations. I would also say we need people to remember that there are so many people in our neighborhoods that are going to need help, not just today but for months to come,” she said.
According to Maehr, Illinois’ food pantries have quickly adapted to the unique challenges the pandemic presents to ensure pantries remain a safe place to seek food assistance and to volunteer. “All the food pantries are adopting safe practices so everything from regular hand-washing to making sure volunteers within the pantry are standing 6 feet apart and making sure that guests in those pantries are standing apart in lines so that we can make sure we’re adopting all the safety protocol for social distancing.”
Corporations and individuals looking for a way to help their neighbors experiencing food hardship can contribute at: www.FeedingIllinois.org/unite and/or text to FEEDIL to 91999.