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Hunger Beat

52 Stories, 52 Weeks: 'This keeps my kids from going hungry'

Jacqueline Dunkentell (right) and her daughter, Jada, wait in line at the Fraternite Notre Dame food pantry.
In the food pantry line at Fraternite Notre Dame in the Austin neighborhood, 7-year-old Jada Dunkentell just wanted to practice her gymnastics.

“Do you want to see me do a cartwheel into the splits?” she asked the crowd waiting for boxes of food.

Without waiting for an answer, she bounced down the sidewalk, flipped over, and landed in a patch of grass. She quickly exclaimed, “See! I did it!”

“You did great,” said Jada’s mother, 44-year-old Jacqueline Dunkentell, who stood nearby in the line. Jacqueline injured her back about a year ago and has not been able to work since. She struggles to afford food and comes to Fraternite Notre Dame, a Greater Chicago Food Depository member agency, once a week.

“This has helped me make ends meet and this keeps my kids from going hungry,” she said.

Jacqueline previously worked as a nursing assistant and security guard. She receives $200 per month in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and she gets shelf-stable food, meat, fruit and vegetables from the food pantry.

“When I lost my job we weren’t able to buy all the meat we needed, but this has helped immensely,” she said.

The pantry is open on Wednesdays from 3-5 p.m., but pantry coordinator Sister Marie Virginia expects to stay past 8 p.m., until everyone is served.

“The need is just so great in this community,” she said. “We serve about 350 individuals per week and it’s just always busy.”

Aside from the food pantry, members of Fraternite Notre Dame, which is a Catholic Order, also run a soup kitchen.

Thanks to the food pantry, while Jacqueline rehabs her back and looks for jobs, she knows she’ll be able to provide enough food for Jada and her other two children.

“This place, these people have been a blessing,” she said. “I’m not sure where we’d be without it.”

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