Thanks to collections organized by local schools and community groups, officials with many of Lake County's township food pantries say they have enough food and supplies to help people this winter.
A few, however, are struggling to meet ever-growing demands.
"The need is enormous," said Warren Township Supervisor Suzanne Simpson. "We haven't seen the bottom yet."
Food drives at Stevenson High School and local synagogues and churches have left the Vernon Township food pantry serving the Buffalo Grove, Long Grove and Lincolnshire area well stocked for the winter, Supervisor William Peterson said.
Area businesses have been bringing bags of food to the center, too, he said.
"We're fortunate," Peterson said. "We're getting food in."
The Vernon Township pantry serves about 150 families a month, Peterson estimated. That figure has stayed fairly level this year, he said.
Other area pantries have experienced tremendous increases in demand, however, often straining their ability to provide basic staples, canned goods and other supplies to distressed residents.
In the Round Lake area, the Avon Township pantry serves about 2,800 a month up more than 300 percent since May 2009, Supervisor Sam Yingling said.
Recent food drives from Grayslake High School District 127 and a local Lions Club have helped keep shelves stocked, Yingling said.
"Right now I feel comfortable where we're at," he said. "But if the numbers continue to rise, we're going to have to identify other strategies to maintain the current number of clients we are serving."
To contribute to the Avon food pantry, call (847) 546-1446, ext. 306, or visit avontownship.us.
In the Ingleside area, Grant Township's food pantry has gone from serving about 30 people a month to about 80, Supervisor Kay Starostovic said. Whereas some food pantries have fresh meat and produce for patrons, the facility is limited to nonperishable goods such as soups, stews and Spam.
"And macaroni-and-cheese is always a big hit with the kids," Starostovic added.
Although rationing sometimes is needed when supplies run low, Starostovic believes the pantry will be OK for the winter.
"We're not the wealthiest community in Lake County, but people here just give from the heart all the time," she said.
Warren Township's food pantry serves about 500 Gurnee-area families each month, up from a historical average of 400 or so, Simpson said.
"And there are more every day," she said. "The calls keep coming in."
The demand is so high, Warren Township staff can't simply rely on community donations, Simpson said. Officials have budgeted $50,000 this year to buy items from the Northern Illinois Food Bank, a St. Charles-based organization serving 12 counties.
Because of the deep discounts the food bank offers, Simpson would rather people donate money rather than actual food. The money will go further, she said.
Directions for contributing to the Warren Township food pantry are available at warrentownship.net/supervisor/40-food-pantry.
Libertyville Township officials are more fortunate when it comes to the supplies in their food pantry. The township recently built a 1,400-square-foot addition for the pantry, and it's stocked.
"We look like we're in great shape," Supervisor Kathleen O'Connor said.
About 400 families are registered to use the Libertyville Township food pantry, slightly lower than the total at the end of 2009.
Even so, the agency sees about 10 new families register each week, O'Connor said.
Area residents have been very generous, donating everything from cereal and pasta to diapers and formula.
"It's just incredible, the amount of support we have," said O'Connor, whose agency also uses cash donations to buy discounted food at the Northern Illinois Food Bank and a local Sunset Foods supermarket.
Lake Villa Township officials expect their food pantry will meet winter demand, too. Supervisor Dan Venturi credited a Grayslake North High School food drive for keeping the pantry full.
The effort generated an estimated 3,500 pounds of food, he said.
"I went and picked up the food... and it filled up our dump truck," Venturi said. "They did a phenomenal job."
The success of that effort shouldn't dissuade people from independently contributing to the pantry, Venturi said. The group serves 1,700 families a year, more than double its pre-recession average.
"I don't want people to stop giving," he said. "We can always use it."