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Hunger Beat

52 Stories, 52 Weeks: Rescuing food, families

The clients who come to the St. Columbanus Church Food Pantry, a Greater Chicago Food Depository member agency, call her “Dee Dee,” but her full name is Marguarite Smith. She is a volunteer and client who greets everyone at the pantry with a jovial smile and a hug. She’s always focused on making everyone in line feel comfortable and welcomed, because she knows times are tough.

“Some of the people that come here can’t even afford lettuce to make a salad,” she said. “So the vegetables and other food we get here are great.”

Marguarite has been volunteering at the pantry for eight years, ever since she had to go on disability soon after her husband also became disabled. Unable to work, the couple struggles to eat on less than $300 per month in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, and food from the pantry.

“Everyone that comes here is just so happy to get meat and chicken,” she said. “I get so many calls from people saying they can cook so much more because of what we receive here.”

St. Columbanus is able to serve approximately 500 clients per week because of Food Depository support, including thousands of pounds of food distributed to the agency every month, grants, and technical assistance.

 Part of the food the pantry receives is from the Food Depository’s Food Rescue program.

“With the Food Rescue program, we can give clients another source of protein,” said pantry coordinator LaVerne Morris. “It truly makes a difference.”

Food Rescue provides Food Depository member agencies with quality meat, dairy products, and produce recovered from grocery stores that would otherwise have been discarded. St. Columbanus joined the program in 2009.

“The pantry used to give us just canned goods, but now everyone’s happy to get the meat,” Marguarite said.

In fiscal year 2012-2013, the Food Depository’s Food Rescue program distributed 10.2 million pounds of food – an increase of more than one million pounds from the previous year.

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