A recent $100,000 donation is boosting the summer food distribution efforts of Loaves & Fishes Community Pantry in Naperville, aiding families in getting the food they need for their children while school is out.
Greg and Gina Shugar of Naperville made the donation when they realized roughly half of the people Loaves & Fishes helps feed are younger than 18.
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"We chose to support Loaves & Fishes specifically because they provide food and support to local families in an efficient and dignified manner," Gina Shugar said. "They have developed programs that empower clients to change a bad situation."
Jody Bender, Loaves & Fishes spokeswoman, said the Shugars' gift will support the pantry's school nutrition program, a milk program launched this year and possibly other efforts.
"We step it up in the summer, especially when there's no school breakfast and no school lunch, so kids can be well-nourished," Bender said. "We're trying to do things that will be helpful for kids as they grow."
Pantry shoppers such as Aurora Heredia of West Chicago say the granola bars, milk, fruit and other foods they choose for themselves and their children fill a vital need.
"A lot of times when I come, I get a whole bunch of fruit and that helps a lot," said Heredia, whose children are 12, 9, 5 and 3.
The $100,000 the Shugars gave will go a long way at Loaves & Fishes, Bender said. If it was all put toward one program, the money could provide milk for a year for 2,000 families with kids; supplemental nutrition for a year to 476 families with school-aged kids; diapers and baby food for a year for 278 infants; or food from the summer nutrition program for 833 school-aged kids.
The gift also could support bi-weekly grocery shopping visits and a year of participation in the pantry's largely nonfood Pathways to Empowerment programs for 50 families.
Charles McLimans, executive director and CEO of Loaves & Fishes, said Pathways to Empowerment offerings include English classes for Naperville and DuPage County residents who speak other languages, basic computer skills classes, job search support, assistance with applications for public benefits or veterans benefits, money management advice and volunteer income tax preparation each spring.
"We're excited about the prospects of all our empowerment programs," McLimans said.
Two more programs soon will be joining the list.
As the implementation of the Affordable Care Act rolls along, Loaves & Fishes will become DuPage County's lead site providing help registering for medical coverage through the new state insurance exchange.
And later this month, visiting nurses who already deliver food to those who cannot leave their homes will begin providing health screenings on site for pantry visitors at 1871 High Grove Lane in Naperville.