Roselle's community food pantry seeking to expand
As the Roselle United Methodist Church Community Food Pantry tries to meet local needs, it is looking to move and double its space.
The pantry, located in the church basement at 206 Rush St., has been serving residents of Roselle, Bloomingdale and Medinah since 2015. With roughly 50 volunteers, new trucks for delivering goods, and an increase of recipients since the start of the pandemic, pantry leaders are seeking to expand.
Executive Director Vicki Johnson said the church is a great location but more space, wheelchair accessibility and better air conditioning are needed as the pantry grows beyond the 2,500 square feet it currently uses.
Johnson said there have been discussions about moving the pantry for at least two years and she hopes to find a 5,000-square-foot warehouse. Currently, no location has been decided upon.
"The community food pantry is one of the best kept secrets in Roselle," Johnson said. "That being said, it is not universally ADA accessible. We've had to make all kinds of adjustments to make the pantry work."
Johnson said the pantry hopes to find a location in central Roselle within the next two years, as moving everything out of the church would take up to one year.
Mayor David Pileski, who serves as the pantry's chairman, said the pantry pays $400 a month to the church to use the space and pay for utilities. He hopes to find a willing property donation so the pantry only needs to worry about upkeep.
"It's one of the first groups I volunteered with when I came back to town as an adult," Pileski said. "It's been great to help the pantry grow to meet the needs of our community in a meaningful way."
At the pantry, families can select food and hygiene products via an electronic tablet in any language.
Recipients are allowed to stop by once a month and must bring a driver's license or state ID card and a current utility or cable bill showing their address in the Roselle, Bloomingdale, and Medinah area. There are no income requirements.
Volunteers gather food from local groceries and restaurants to distribute each Saturday. The pantry receives fresh produce, dairy products, and packaged meat from Amazon Fresh, Mariano's, Target, Olive Garden, Chipotle and Jewel-Osco.
It is organized as a nonprofit separate from the church in order to receive grants and other donations. Last year, it received grants of $20,000 from the DuPage Foundation, $10,000 from the Northern Illinois Food Bank, and $10,000 from the Itasca Bank and Trust Co. That money was put toward buying a refrigerated van to transport food.
Johnson said finding donated fresh food and removing the income requirement helps take away the stigma of receiving food from pantries.
"This is not like the food pantries I had access to where they hand you discarded food that will expire in a couple of days," she said. "We want to give people the best possible options we can to help them."
Despite the pantry's small space and COVID-19 pandemic increasing demand, things have been running smoothly, according to Johnson. According to Johnson, 75 to 80 families receive aid per month, including 74 in May. Nearly $34,000 worth of food was distributed last month in Roselle, equaling $175 for each of 194 people served.
The pantry indirectly helps 400 families by giving meat and produce to other local food pantries.
During the pandemic, food insecurity increased drastically in the country. According to the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, the Chicago metro area was the second most food insecure metro area in the nation during the pandemic's peak, with 24% of residents lacking food security.
Johnson said that even during the worst months, volunteers prepackaged produce, bakery, deli and dairy items for pickup by families in their cars and held pop-up pantries at other churches.
"We only had one volunteer that had to stop during COVID," she said. "We never stopped doing the work and the pandemic showed us that the pantry is a staple of this community."