Loaves & Fishes Looks Back at a Busy Year and Forward to a Busier One

A wrap-up of the past year at the local food pantry and a preview of what's to come.

Since its founding in 1984, the vision of has been the same.

Staff seek to end hunger in and provide food and leadership in the community by mobilizing resources that allow people to be self-sufficient, according to its Website. That vision will become even more clear this month, when the pantry moves into its new 16,884-square-foot space—more than double the size of its current building.

"Our new facility will have a number of wonderful new features, including a loading dock, a larger distribution center with reach-in freezers and coolers, a training center and meeting space ..." said Jody Bender, spokeswoman for the pantry.

The building is located at 1871 High Grove Lane in Naperville. The site was acquired in 2008 through a combination of federal Community Development Block Grants given both by the city and private donations, Bender said. Construction money has come from additional donor-designated gifts and loans, which have been worked into the pantry's budget and will be paid off within five years.

Bender said the move is scheduled for Jan. 24, with a ribbon cutting to take place on Saturday, Feb. 5. And since its client base has continued to grow, she believes the new center will better meet the great needs of the community.

Between Thanksgiving and the winter holidays, more then 1,900 families received holiday food from Loaves & Fishes. That's a slight increase from 1,835 last holiday season.

A total of 865 children were registered to receive holiday gifts when Santa Claus visited the pantry Dec. 19 and more than 100 new families register for assistance each month.

Without the pantry, the holiday season would be much different for those in Naperville and surrounding communities who are in need of the extra help. Among them is Anita Hinton, 43.

Hinton is a single mother of five children and two foster children and goes to school full time. She regularly uses the pantry as a resource, she said.

"Loaves & Fishes is an extremely important part of my life, the volunteers are fantastic and treat everyone with respect ... They don't talk down to you," said Hinton, who lived in Naperville for 15 years before recently moving to Warrenville.

"Children can eat you out of house, home, the garage and the neighbors house," she said. ... I don't know what I do without their services."

Hinton visits the pantry, which is set up like a grocery store, every two weeks, she said.

"With such a large family, I've learned how to make our food stretch," she said. "The volunteers on hand are always smiling and willing to help you make choices. I hold them all in very high regard."

In fiscal year 2010, Loaves & Fishes supplied more then two million pounds of groceries, providing nourishment to 55,287 individuals. About 2,540 students in kindergarten through 12th grade were given breakfast assistance during the school year. Also, 960 infants were given baby food, formula and diapers—a 76 percent increase over the year before.

"... We long ago outgrew the current space and we want to add the Pathways to Empowerment program to help our clients address the issues contributing to their food insecurity," Bender said.

Pathways to Empowerment will launch with the pantry's move. It will offer a holistic approach and long-term solutions that address the root causes of hunger and food insecurity, ultimately leading to strengthening their families, coordinators said.

The programs share the goal of fostering self-stability. They include nutritional education to teach clients how to make the best use of the foods they receive, proactive health screenings to identify medical conditions and mental health counseling, as well as public benefit enrollment assistance, financial literacy, and employment counseling.

If you are interested in volunteering at Loaves & Fishes, visit the organizations Website or call 630-355-3663.


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