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Hunger Beat

52 Stories, 52 Weeks: 'Working with desperate people'

Maureen Ryan chooses a bag of vegetables at the Union Ave. UMC Church food pantry.
Maureen Ryan used to have a steady, secure job in accounting and credit collecting.

“I was the best credit collector in the City of Chicago,” she laughed.

That was about 10 years ago. After losing the job, Maureen hasn’t been able to find consistent work. She now works odd jobs and cleans houses to make ends meet. Between her part-time income and $126 per month in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, she doesn’t make enough to support her disabled husband and two teenage daughters.

“They don’t give enough for food stamps. It’s just not enough,” she said.

To fill in the gaps, Maureen and her husband get fruit, vegetables, meat, bread, and canned goods at the Union Avenue UMC Church food pantry, a Greater Chicago Food Depository agency in the South Side neighborhood of Canaryville.

“Since my husband has been disabled, the doctors want him to eat better, so I get my vegetables here, because they’re just too expensive otherwise.”

Maureen and her husband have been coming to the pantry for a year.

“It’s tough to scrounge up money to buy food these days,” Maureen said. “That’s why this is such a blessing for us.”

Every month, the pantry serves more than 400 individuals, and the Ryans’ story is all too familiar to pantry coordinator Ray Carey.

“We’re working with desperate people now,” he said. “People have lost their jobs and are struggling through no fault of their own. That story needs to be told.”

Join the Greater Chicago Food Depository in the fight against hunger in Cook County. Donate or volunteer and make a difference for the 1 in 6 of our neighbors who don’t know where their next meal will come from.

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