$700,000 grant allows Aurora food pantry to launch Mobile Meals program

A $700,000 federal grant will allow the Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry to bring hot, nourishing meals to people who need them.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin visited the pantry Wednesday to discuss the funding he helped secure in the 2023 omnibus appropriations bill. The pantry will use the money to start a new Mobile Meals Program that will provide services for food-insecure residents in the five counties they serve.

"It's very significant for us," said pantry Executive Director Shannon Cameron. "We feel so grateful that this funding will allow us to create a whole new program and a new way to feed our community."

It is the first time in its 42-year history that the pantry has received a federal earmark.

"We live in the richest nation in the world, yet over 35 million Americans are still experiencing food insecurity," Durbin said in a news release. "While Congress works to address this public health crisis, residents continuously rely on organizations like Aurora Food Pantry.

This federal funding will allow them to expand their critical services to even more Illinoisans."

According to Feeding America, there are more than 62,000 food-insecure residents in DuPage County (about 6.7% of its population) and 38,000 food-insecure residents in Kane County (about 7.3% of its population).

Last year the pantry served 126,000 residents across DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Will, and DeKalb counties. Their total operating budget was $1.2 million for 2022.

"We couldn't have launched this program without the grant," Cameron said.

The pantry will construct a commercial kitchen and outfit a food truck to bring meals directly to people in their communities, especially those who may not have the ability to cook foods offered at the pantry, such as the elderly, homeless and people with disabilities.

The new kitchen will also allow them to offer healthy cooking classes and build ready-made meal kits they can't make in the pantry due to health code restrictions.

"There's so many possibilities of what we can do that can help increase the health of our whole community," she said.

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