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Hunger Beat

52 Stories, 52 Weeks: Changing life plans

Shevel Pickett receives food from the Maple Morgan Park Food Pantry.
Shevel Pickett and her husband own a home and a car. They live in the Morgan Park neighborhood on the far South Side of Chicago, amongst Victorian-style homes and shaded streets. Five years ago, Shevel would never have expected to be in need of help from a food pantry. Instead, she was hoping to be well on her way to retirement by 2013.

But, Shevel’s plans had to be put on hold when she was laid off from her job in human resources in 2008. She has been working temporary assignments sporadically ever since, but has not found another full-time position.

“I’ve heard people use the phrase, ‘Too young to retire, too old to get hired,’” she said. “It’s hard because it seems like people are looking for younger employees and not me.”

Shevel receives unemployment and her husband is on disability, but the couple still can barely afford food. Once a month, they go to the Maple Morgan Park Food Pantry.

“The pantry has been a wonder,” she said. “It helps a great deal. I’m able to make meals that end up lasting a long time.”

For pantry director Lillian Hennings, seeing people like Shevel at the pantry is a common occurrence.

“We’ve seen a huge increase in our numbers over the last few years,” she said. “The need is significant in this community and the economy is bad. It’s tough to get a job right now, so people come to the pantry.” 

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