Hunger Doesn't Take a Summer Vacation in Wheeling Township
The summer months are a challenging time for the Wheeling Township Food Pantry because donations normally drop. School is out and normal routines are disrupted with vacations, camp, and other summer activities - which results in a dip in donations. During the school year, food drives are associated with school activities, scouting projects, or initiatives spearheaded by Sunday schools at local churches. Private companies also tend to hold food drives during the fall to help to feed in-need individuals and families over the holiday season.
The drop in donations over the summer months present challenges for in-need residents, as their children are oftentimes at home for all three meals when school is out. This causes financial difficulties for families who rely on free lunch or breakfast during the school year; children are also more active in nicer weather and tend to eat more.
On top of this, the number of individuals and families who need to utilize the Wheeling Township Food Pantry is increasing; what is known as 'food insecurity' in the social service world is also on the rise. According to the U.S. Census American Community Survey, nearly 38,000 people in Wheeling Township were at risk for food insecurity between 2013 -- 2017. In 2011, an average of 150 families visited the pantry on a monthly basis, and today that number has risen to 400 families utilizing it each month.
"This combination of lower supply and increased demand creates the 'perfect storm' that must be eased in our Township," said Wheeling Township Supervisor Kathy Penner, "We have numerous programs available to prevent our residents from going hungry during the summer."
Below are some ways that area residents can help:
Giving Garden: A healthy addition to the Food Pantry during the summer months is fresh produce. Home grown vegetables and fruit are a nutritious supplement to non-perishable foods provided through the pantry, for example, locally grown, perfectly ripened tomatoes. As residents till the soil, they can consider planting a few extra rows to benefit the Wheeling Township Giving Garden.
Paper and Personal Essentials: Unknown to many is the fact that non-food items cannot be purchased through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (formerly food stamps). These items include daily essentials such as toilet paper, soap, shampoo, toothpaste and other personal hygiene items. The Food Pantry has separate shelves dedicated to these items, but they are often empty.
Everyday Staples: Just the same as 'staple' items in an individual's pantry or cabinets at home, these items are always needed in the Food Pantry. Peanut butter and jelly, soup, cereal, tomato products, and juice are examples of these items that many families purchase every week. When shopping, please consider purchasing an extra item or two to help stock the shelves of the Food Pantry during the summer months - when these items are needed the most.
An additional way the Township helps those in-need is by giving referrals to other food pantries if needs exceed what is provided through the Wheeling Township Food Pantry. Recipients are also provided with the schedule for 'Summer Suppers' at local churches, the Greater Chicago Food Depository Produce Mobile schedule, and a coupon to double their SNAP benefits, which is available at the Northbrook Farmers' Market. SNAP applications and renewals can be completed by appointment at Wheeling Township, which gives people more freedom of choice when they are shopping at food pantries.
Wheeling Township's goal is to help wipe out hunger in the community. Please remember every donation makes a difference. In providing this vital assistance and support, area residents and businesses are helping to fulfill the Township's mission of "Neighbors Helping Neighbors".
Donations for the Food Pantry can be dropped off at the Wheeling Township Food Pantry, 1616 N. Arlington Heights Road, in Arlington Heights. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.
For more information, please call 847-259-7730 or visit wheelingtownship.com.