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Hunger Beat

52 Stories, 52 Weeks: Receiving food, feeding others

Eileen Poeppel has been volunteering at Irving Park Community Food Pantry for eight years.
Every Wednesday morning, 66-year-old Eileen Poeppel catches a bus at 5:15 a.m. to reach the Irving Park Community Food Pantry by 6 a.m., three hours before the pantry opens. She’s there to receive food, but she’s also there to help out.

For the past eight years, Eileen has been managing the small kitchen at the food pantry. She serves snacks and warm coffee to clients waiting to receive their food.

“It’s nice to help a place that is helping me,” she said.

Eileen first came to the pantry nearly 10 years ago. She was on disability and had been let go from a job in customer service. Now, she is receiving social security, which helps pay for medical expenses related to her diabetes, but she still doesn’t have enough left over to pay for the groceries she needs.  So, she turns to the food pantry for essentials.

“I get most of my vegetables at the food pantry,” Eileen said. “It’s so expensive otherwise.”

In addition to produce, Eileen receives meat and shelf-stable items from the pantry, which is especially important since she is also taking care of her son-in-law and his three children, while he recovers from surgery.

Eileen’s age and diabetes make it difficult to get around and her tight budget makes paying for public transportation difficult. But, she is committed to a cause that helped her.

“Doing my part here is completely worth it,” she said.

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