Evanston pantries scramble to keep up with demand

Natasha Dennison has been finding it harder to pay her grocery bills at a time when even a bag of rice sets her back $9.So Dennison and her son paid their first visit to Evanston’s Harvest Food Pantry July 22. They took a number and waited their turn to pick up the week’s offerings.Vineyard Christian Fellowship volunteer Dan Lee shows off the selection of teas to a customer at the Harvest Food Pantry.  Volunteers pause for prayer before the Harvest Food Pantry opens its doors at the Vineyard Christian Fellowship Church in Evanston.  People line up outside Evanston’s Vineyard Christian Fellowship Church before the Harvest Food Pantry opens its doors for a weekly food distribution. On a recent Wednesday, the pantry served more than 130 visitors, up from 75 per week last year. “Times are hard,” said Dennison. “Everything costs more money. You have to stretch your dollar any way you can.”Dennison had plenty of company. When the doors opened at 6 p.m., people who’d been waiting for an hour or longer made a dash for the table with complimentary coffee cakes and punch, then took a seat until their numbers were called.Like other pantries in the Evanston area, this one — run by Vineyard Christian Fellowship Church, 2495 Howard St. — has been scrambling to keep its cupboards stocked at a time of rising demand.The number of weekly visitors has surged twice in the past year. After holding steady at around 75 to 80 families a week, the number of visitors bounced up late last summer and early fall when the economy went into a tailspin.On two Wednesdays this month, the pantry served 130 and 140 visitors. Each customer is limited to two visits per month.”We have grandparents taking care of grandkids and a lot of Single Moms who, if they are working, are stretching their dollar as far as they can.”The Evanston Food Pantry, run by the Salvation Army at 1403 Sherman Ave., provided groceries to 118 individuals and 27 families in July, up about 70 percent from the same month in 2008. The Salvation Army is open for food distribution from 10 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.”People either are losing their jobs, or their hours have been cut back so they are on a tighter budget,” said Jean Sapper, a Salvation Army case worker who handles food distribution.Demand also goes up during school recess. “When the kids are in school through the year, they are getting breakfast and lunch. Now they’re not.”To read from the Evanston Review, click here:http://www.pioneerlocal.com/evanston/news/1689789,evanston-hunger-073009-s1.articleClick here to make a donation to The Salvation Army Hunger Fundraising Campaign

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