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Hunger Beat

52 Stories, 52 Weeks: 'We were used to one meal a day'

Jill and Chester have been coming to the Niles Township Pantry for nearly two years.
Jill Brenner and her son Chester take a cab to the Niles Township Food Pantry in Skokie twice a month. It’s a stretch for them to pay the cab fare, but if they didn’t go, they wouldn’t eat.

“Before we started coming here, we were used to one meal a day, because that’s all we could afford,” Chester said.

Jill has been on disability for the last five years. Previously, she was an accountant. Her son is also disabled, after having multiple heart surgeries. Jill is not eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits because of what she receives from disability. But, she still has difficulty affording food because most of her income is spent on rent.

“Food is not cheap these days,” Jill said. “It has been rough the last couple of years for us, but the pantry has been a godsend.”

Jill and Chester regularly receive meat, fresh fruit and vegetables, canned goods, and bread from the pantry, which serves approximately 3,000 families per month.

“It’s been a lifesaver for us, literally,” Jill said.

For Chester, 21, the pantry is not only a source of nutritious food; it is a way to build strength and confidence.

“It definitely saved the holidays for us last year, because we wouldn’t have had any food otherwise. But besides just the holidays, on a monthly basis, it lets me feel pride and gives me a sense of hope.”

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