Micro food pantries open for veterans at Hines VA Hospital and outpatient clinics

Take what you need and leave what you can.

That's the simple but powerful concept behind new micro food pantries springing up at Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital's outpatient clinics and main hospital.

Starting at the Kankakee Community Based Outpatient Clinic, micro food pantries are private spaces that provide basic food staples and other necessities to veterans in need and their families.

"Across the VA, as many as one in four veterans are facing some degree of food insecurity," said Brittney Moutray, registered dietitian and micro food pantry organizer. "No veteran should ever go hungry. VA's goal is to identify these veterans and get them the help they need, and micro food pantries are one way Hines VA is doing this."

Staff and community members can drop off nonperishable food stables at any location currently hosting a micro food pantry, according to Brenda Beben, outpatient clinic nutrition manager for Hines VA.

"We're asking for nutrient-dense foods that are longer-lasting," Beben said. "Things like oatmeal, nuts, rice, beans and shelf-stable milk that have longer shelf lives and don't require refrigeration."

Currently, micro food pantries are open at the following Hines VA outpatient locations:

• Aurora Community Based Outpatient Clinic: Located on the left side of the front lobby entrance.

• Joliet CBOC: Located in the main waiting area.

• Kankakee CBOC: Located on the righthand side after the main entrance.

• LaSalle CBOC: Located in the main lobby near the front desk.

Oak Lawn and Hoffman Estates CBOCs will launch their micro food pantries in early 2022.

Hines VA's Hospital's Emergency Department will soon begin a micro food pantry with additional support from Loyola University Chicago's Stritch School of Medicine's Surplus Project.

The Surplus Project will repurpose unsold nutritional cafeteria meals from Loyola into microwavable frozen and refrigerated meals for Hines veterans in need.

The micro food pantry will open in early 2022 and be in the main waiting area of the emergency department, according to Kerry Thomas, Hines VA Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program specialist.

"Food insecurity can have lasting effects on a person's physical and mental wellbeing, and micro food pantries are the newest way we are tackling this very serious issue," said James Doelling, Hospital Director. "If you're a veteran in need, Hines is here for you. And if you're able, drop off an item during your next checkup and help a fellow veteran."

Additional support

Hines VA Hospital also offers a food pantry every Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon. Drive-through pick-up is located outside the C Lobby of Building 1. Pedestrian pick-up is located inside Building 1's D lobby. The weekly food pantry is no longer located inside the hospital's cafeteria.

Veterans seeking housing or employment assistance can call (708) 202-4961 or visit Building 228, Floor 4 North, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Representatives are also available at Hoffman Estates and Joliet locations. Community members can inform Hines VA of homeless veterans in their area by calling (708) 202-4961, and a Hines VA social worker can be dispatched to offer help to the veteran in need.

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