How to help with worsening food insecurity

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Food insecurity may be a term you are not familiar with. Some call it “going hungry,” and assume the only people who can experience food insecurity are struggling financially. This notion is untrue. In fact, many middle or working class families can afford a nice car, a house and pay for education for their children also identify as food insecure. Food insecurity means there may not always be enough quality food in the house to support the family at all times.
This has become more widespread now due to the pandemic closing off jobs and income, for some more indefinitely than others. Food insecurity is hitting particularly hard on families with children, because of the number of people to feed. As of early 2020, the projected food insecurity percentage in Cook County alone will also increase from 10 percent to 15 percent of the population.
The good news is, for those who are experiencing food insecurity during these uncertain times, there is a local food pantry that works hard to make sure your grocery needs are met. Oak Park and River Forest’s food pantry is sponsored by the organization called Beyond Hunger and is stationed just off of Lake Street in the First United Church of Oak Park on the northeastern corner of Kenilworth and Lake. If you are looking for ways to help locally, they also offer many opportunities to get involved.
Recently, I volunteered there to work as a shopper’s assistant, which is a position that selects foods for customers. When compared to the previous times I had volunteered at the food pantry as a shopper’s assistant, this was a very new experience. For example, someone mentioned they had never seen the vegetable section run out before, which could be attributed to the unprecedented amount of customers that the food pantry serviced that day, more than we were prepared to provide for. Even if you have not heard about it, there is undoubtedly food insecurity present in Oak Park and it is only worsening in the pandemic rages on. Communications manager for Beyond Hunger, Sarah Corbin, says, “We expect that we will see an avalanche of need in the coming months, even years.”
There are plenty of ways for people to help support the local food pantry. They are open for physical donations between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Another action you can take is to volunteer your time: there are many different shifts available to fit a flexible schedule, and there are even family-friendly shifts (please note that an adult must accompany children 12-years-old and younger). Additionally, the food pantry welcomes financial support, whether via online or in-person transactions. Lastly, make sure to spread the word, via social media and word-of-mouth.

You can volunteeer here: https://www.gobeyondhunger.org/volunteer
You can donate here: https://www.gobeyondhunger.org/give-hunger-relief-today

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