Since it first opened inside a health clinic in 2018 and moved to a deconsecrated church in 2019, the Pilsen Food Pantry has expanded its offerings and ambition.
“Primarily, we are operating, known as a food pantry, we currently serve about 2,000 families a month,” said pantry manager Steve Wiley. “But in addition to that, we operate a clothing thrift store. We do pro bono physical therapy. We give out donated medical access equipment. We do COVID testing, Narcan distribution, health screening. We do a number of initiatives throughout the year.”
Now, the Pilsen Food Pantry has purchased a two-story building at Ashland Avenue and 21st Street that will allow the pantry to grow and better serve the thousands of Chicagoans who rely on it. Though the organization has already been able to purchase the two-story former YMCA building, Wiley said some additional funding will be needed to bring the new home to life.
“We’ve been trying to purchase the building for a couple of years now, so we have money that we raised already in accounts waiting for this moment,” Wiley said. “We can proceed with a lot of stuff quickly. The money that we’re trying to raise is for specific things that we didn’t know about, things like moving a concrete ramp outside and things like that, sort of unanticipated expenses. One plan is down the road to possibly put an elevator in, be fully ADA compliant so we can really serve anybody that we need to.”
The pantry is now seeking donations of money, building supplies and labor. Wiley said as the pantry ramps up for the move, the staff is excited to expand offerings.
“It’s our own place, it’s our identity, we’re not associated with a church or anybody else,” Wiley said. “People will know it for us and the services that we provide to the community. We don’t have to worry about stepping on the toes of the landlord or anything like that. It is our place that we’re buying outright. So any of these things that we had ideas about doing will actually come to fruition in this space.”