INfrequently Asked Questions: Don't call our store a food pantry
Why her? Megan Selck, 34, of St. Charles, is president and CEO of Loaves and Fishes, the Naperville-based food pantry that serves DuPage County. Responsibilities range from paying (expensive) trash bills to greeting clients to driving a refrigerated box truck. She started in a fundraising role three years ago and became CEO in March.
Q: You're the head of a food pantry, but you prefer not to call it that. Why?
A: "We don't even like to say pantry because we see ourselves bigger than that. I think of a tiny church closet and cans of green beans, and there's nothing wrong with cans of green beans. They're a good staple, but we really take it to that next level."
Q: How so?
A: "We have a beautiful grocery store and fresh market. It looks like Whole Foods or Mariano's. It looks like a scaled down grocery store. We have fresh flowers. We have meat. We have produce. We have dairy. We have personal care products. We have household products, diapers, formula, baby food."
Q: Who utilizes Loaves and Fishes?
A: "Our clients are the under-resourced. They are the working poor. We serve at the federal income poverty level, which is what free and reduced lunch is served at (in the schools). Based on their family size, they're allocated a certain number of points for each section of the store. There's no cost for anything that we provide to our clients."
Q: As a self-proclaimed foodie, what's your go-to at home?
A: "My favorite thing to cook is a version of chicken piccata that my husband loves and requests on his birthday. My personal favorite food is my mom's dressing that she makes at Thanksgiving."
Q: When did you know you loved food?
A: "To me, food feeds so much more than your body. It feeds your soul. I grew up in a wonderful household where mealtime was a very important time in my family. Sharing those experiences and sharing your day and having those conversations around the table are really important. When I think about those families who struggle to put a meal on the table and to be able to have that really important connectivity time, that's what motivates me to do what I do."
Q: Are you still learning everyday?
A: "We pick up stuff that I've never heard of that perhaps some ethnicities are very used to cooking with. I learned this summer to cook with cactus leaves. I've never in my life done that. I tried it, and it's awesome. It was really good."
Q: Beyond food, what does Loaves and Fishes offer?
A: "We really are problem solvers. We take every situation, which is unique and different, and try to connect the clients with whatever resources they need to get them through that situation, whether that's ESL classes, career centers for job placement, the Department of Veterans Affairs, Council on Aging, and so on."
Q: What's the best part of your job?
A: "My favorite thing is to be in the market and spending time with both our clients and our volunteers. … It does not look like a dark, dingy pantry. It's a bright colorful space. I love standing there and listening to the volunteers who are so compassionate and so excited to be there and talk with the clients who are so grateful to be there. … If I'm having a frustrating moment or a challenging moment, I just get up and walk out of my office to the market and all is right in the world."
INfrequently Asked QuestionsA weekly feature of the Daily Herald that explores the sides of suburbanites' jobs or hobbies that you might have always wondered about. To see more, go to www.dailyherald.com/topics/INfrequently-Asked-Questions/