Chicago Food Pantry Hopes To Feed About 300 Families

Common Pantry
Margaret O’Conor, the executive director of the nonprofit group Common Pantry, hands out a turkey to a pantry visitor. Minju Park / WBEZ
Common Pantry
Margaret O’Conor, the executive director of the nonprofit group Common Pantry, hands out a turkey to a pantry visitor. Minju Park / WBEZ

Chicago Food Pantry Hopes To Feed About 300 Families

Food pantry workers hauled boxes of frozen turkeys and stuffing to families who may have next to nothing to eat for Thanksgiving.

The workers are with Common Pantry in Chicago’s North Center neighborhood, which expects to feed about 300 families with its annual on-site Thanksgiving food giveaway this week.

The nonprofit organization partnered with local Jewel-Osco grocery stores, where customers could donate money for the pantry to buy turkeys.

Nelson Pagan said he has used the pantry’s services for about four years, and he said without them, his family would celebrate with whatever they could get.

“A can of ham, a can of something,” Pagan said. “Sometimes it’s hard to make ends meet, but as of now, everything seems to be working out good.”

Families of at least two people who reside within the pantry’s service area are eligible to receive the meals.

According to the Greater Chicago Food Depository, about 20.6% of people living in Chicago were food insecure in 2011, meaning the quality of the food they ate was low, they did not eat enough or both.

Margaret O’Conor, who is the executive director of Common Pantry, said she wants to remove the stigma around food insecurity and to provide an opportunity for families to get back on their feet.

She said food insecurity is more apparent around Thanksgiving, when needy families may be struggling to afford a full-course meal.

“They rely on this to have a nice holiday, like everybody else wants,” O’Conor said. “To provide a turkey meal ensures that that can happen for them.”

The nonprofit pantry is one of the oldest in the area, serving its community for 52 years.

It also provides a weekly hot lunch, a need-based grocery system and social services, like housing and job assistance.