Austin food banks see big demand

West Side residents will line up in front of St. Martin de Porres Church on Wednesday to fetch food, and for some this will be the first time they have sought help this way.

Last week nearly 100 families came to the Austin Church pantry, from 60 to 70 families who usually seek help on Wednesdays and Thursdays when the Church is handing out food.

“Our pantry has been badly hit in the past two weeks, which is sure to be the same anywhere in town. But I think more donations are likely to be needed, ”said Leon William, a volunteer at the food bank.

“Whether from individuals or businesses, I think any grocery bank or pantry would appreciate more donations.”

The coronavirus has made life difficult for low-income residents who are already struggling to support their families – and new difficulties for others who are now suddenly unemployed or underemployed. Food banks have seen an influx of people as vital businesses like groceries fail to replenish essentials fast enough.

This week, Wednesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., St. Martin’s, 5112 W. Washington Blvd., plans to distribute grocery bags to over 90 families, and the elderly have had groceries delivered through the Chicago Police Department’s 15th District.

“Many seniors have steady incomes and can’t just go out and stock up on things,” said 15th Ward Sgt. Jermaine Harris. “We’re just reaching for the pantries and letting them know how we can help.”

Using an emergency list of registered seniors, Harris said the 15th District regularly searched for residents in its home country and identified resources available for other residents from pantries such as St. Martin de Porres and Hope Community Church, 5900 W. Chicago St..

Although Harris said they are not attempting to recruit volunteers due to the state-mandated housing order that the governor has extended through April 30, he is grateful for the Islamic Community Outreach’s donation gloves and disinfectants.

For the past decade, Hope Community Church has provided resources through its grocery bank every Friday from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. – and will continue to do so during the pandemic.

“This is a very difficult time, but we are working together on all of these issues,” said Rev. Steve Epting, pastor of Hope Community Church. “This gives us the opportunity to offer our residents comfort and safety while at the same time providing the necessary support.”

Epting said the church had provided resources for the 15th District for delivery and also opened a text group for the ward to connect residents with other avenues of support. Residents can send “THEHOPECITY” to 64600 for updates.

Regarding the Westside Health Authority and their Good Neighbor Campaign, the Welfare Agency has been in constant touch with around 2,000 people who are part of their care network to see what they need and then supplies are delivered to their doorstep.

James Coleman, director of community wellness at the Westside Health Authority, said the organization, which has multiple locations in Austin, could use donations of water, toilet paper, and dried or canned goods that they then deliver to seniors. And he encourages West Sierre to contact the older residents in their neighborhood.

“There is a group of seniors who lead lives where they have no voice and they are not getting checked out as often as they should,” Coleman said. “Just go out and knock on the door to check on people and if you can, try to speak to them remotely through their door.”

Another Austin organization, Fraternite Notre Dame, 502 N. Central Ave., works with the Westside Health Authority to prepare food for delivery. The Notre Dame Brotherhood continues to operate their pantry every Wednesday from 3pm to 5pm

Residents can contact the 15th District with questions at (312) 743-1495 or email [email protected] The Westside Health Authority and the Good Neighbor Campaign can be contacted with inquiries at (773) 951-6737. Residents who have a resource provision question or wish to volunteer are asked to call Hope Community Church at (773) 921-2243 and leave a message. Residents can also find a pantry, soup kitchen, mobile grocery distribution, or Cook County lodging by clicking the Greater Chicago Food Depository here.

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