Food pantries can't meet demand

December 23, 2011

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(Flickr/yanyanyanyanyan)
Area pantries and kitchens are having to close or scale back their services because they can't meet demand.
(WBEZ/Jennifer Brandel)
The Greater Chicago Food Depository estimates 1 in 5 Cook County residents don't know where they'll find their next meal.

As holiday menus are being planned, local food banks are scrambling to feed everyone in need this coming year. Area soup kitchens and food pantries are seeing record numbers of people through their doors.

Kate Maehr heads the Greater Chicago Food Depository. She said food pantries are seeing much more of a new demographic - people who have jobs.

"But when they get to the end of the month and they've paid all their bills, they don't have enough money to buy food at a grocery store. Increasingly - that's the story of hunger in America," Maehr said.

The food banks like the one Maehr runs aren't able to supply as much food to pantries as they used to. This year the Greater Chicago Food Fepository is 7.3 million pounds short the amount of food they gave away by this time last year.

That's because of the rising cost of food. Maehr said area pantries and kitchens are having to close or scale back their services because they can't meet demand.

The Food Depository estimates 1 in 5 Cook County residents are food insecure - meaning they don't know where they'll find their next meal.

Maehr urged Chicagoans to contribute canned food to collection areas around town.