By DIANE TURNER-HURNS
Journal & Topics Reporter
Officials of the 10 year-old Leyden Township Emergency Food Pantry said they have seen an increase in demand for assistance in light of the stagnant economy and the increase in food prices.
Operated by the Leyden Township Family Services Department, the food pantry is stocked by
community donations and is open to any township resident in need.
“We have seen a recent increase in those seeking our help,” said food pantry Manager Hilda Tamayo “Currently, we help on average about 310 people per month. With job losses and food costs going up there has been a real need.”
For 2014, Tamayo said the numbers are up. In just the first four months of 2014 the pantry has helped 2,993 people and about 100 families, she said. At this rate, she said they could reach 4,000 for the year.
Tamayo said in 2013 the pantry served a total of 3,577 individuals and in 2012 3,748 individuals.
“Someone may have lost a job, finances are tough and we’re acting as a buffer, so to speak,” Tamayo said.
Those who ask for help usually receive six items per bag, which may include pasta, tuna, vegetables, fruit, soup, and beans.
“It’s about $15 worth of food and should help them for a few days,” Tamayo added.
To receive food, a picture identification and proof of residency, such as a lease or utility bill, is required. The food pantry can be accessed up to four times per year and is located at 10200 W. Grand Ave, Franklin Park. It is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from noon until 4 p.m.
Tamayo said the community has been very generous in donating food, toiletries and funds to the pantry.
“For instance, Franklin Park, Leyden Township and the 6th graders from the local middle school recently held food drives which greatly helped,” Tamayo said. “East and West Leyden high schools are very active in helping the pantry with food drives and garnering funds.”
Tamayo also noted they receive help from several local businesses including donations from Caputos and Jewel grocery stores. The Boy Scouts and the Rotary Club also help.
“During the holidays, the grocery stores donate pre-packaged dinners for us to hand out,” Tamayo said. “They are very generous by providing ham and turkey dinners.”
Tamayo said the emergency food pantry started as a vocational program where those in the program would work there and learn skills.
Currently, the pantry through Leyden Township employs six part-time people who are part of the vocational program.
Tamayo, who has been at the pantry for 14 months, said the need continues to grow.
“People are having a harder time keeping up,” Tamayo said. “However, the community has been extremely helpful.”