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Hunger Beat

'Big Bag Tuesday'

More than 30 volunteers help staff the soup kitchen and food pantry at Grant Memorial A.M.E. Church.
The kitchen was humming at Grant Memorial A.M.E. Church in the Oakland neighborhood. Grocery bags full of meat, pasta, beans, tuna, and fresh fruit were being loaded onto carts on a sunny Tuesday afternoon in May, while a line began to form in the church lobby. It’s Tuesday, which means the church is distributing food and hot meals to clients. But, it wasn't just any Tuesday.
It was “Big Bag Tuesday.”
That’s what Program Coordinator Lillie Dawson calls the second Tuesday of each month, when a Greater Chicago Food Depository truck drops off thousands of pounds of food which then gets distributed to people who need help making ends meet in the community.
“We give out bags of food every week, but it won’t be as much as we give today,” she said. “Today the clients are getting a bag with meat, a bag with groceries and a bag with fruits and vegetables, all from the Food Depository.”

Clients get more food to take home on "Big Bag Tuesday" because that is the week the pantry receives fresh produce and meat in addition to shelf-stable food from the Food Depository. The rest of the items will be distributed throughout the month.

Operation P.U.L.L., or People United to Lift Lives, has been keeping up with the increasing need in the Kenwood, Oakland and Grand Boulevard communities since it started as a bi-monthly food distribution at the church 30 years ago.

Lillie has been the program coordinator for nearly four years and has been a volunteer at the church for 13 years.
 “Every year there are more and more people coming through the doors,” she said. “They come to us for help and we don’t turn anyone away.”
The weekly hot meal soup kitchen was added in 1986. Since its inception, Operation P.U.L.L. has received most of its food from the Food Depository.
“People know that we’re here. We are a consistent force in the community. Being connected to the Food Depository helps us so much,” said Rosalind Morgan, who started volunteering at the church after her mother founded the food pantry program in 1983.
The community has continually supported the church's mission. About 30 volunteers operate the pantry every Tuesday and hundreds of people have volunteered since the pantry opened.
“Volunteers come from all over,” Rosalind said. “They are so dedicated. They come in snow, rain, sleet, hail, whatever. They’re that dedicated.”
A volunteer loads grocery bags onto a cart at Grant Memorial A.M.E. Church. The bags, full of food from the Food Depository, will be distributed to anyone who needs them at the soup kitchen.
 Every Tuesday, more than 150 people come to the church for a hot meal and groceries. One of those regulars is William Garner. He has been coming to the pantry for five years because he needs help supplementing the food he gets with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits on his LINK card.
“The LINK card isn’t enough to stretch through the month. Food is expensive,” said William. “This pantry comes in very handy for a lot of people in this neighborhood.
Today, William will get a hot meal plus a bag with meat, canned goods, bread, fruits and vegetables.
“I’m just very grateful that they’re here,” he said.
William is one of 807,000 people in Cook County - 1 in 6 - who are food insecure. Consider a donation to the Food Depository to help fight hunger in our community.

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