Food pantry aims to lower hunger in Cook County

Korean War veteran Irving Partee depends on food pantries to supplement his monthly food supply.  The 81-year-old is a resident of Chicago’s New City neighborhood. He says his government benefits don’t cover his monthly expenses including groceries. Therefore, to keep his refrigerator stocked, Partee is a regular at United Human Services Center located at 1809 W. 51st St.

Partee is among hundreds of thousands of individuals living in the Chicago area who are facing food insecurity.  Food insecurity is defined by the USDA as “limited access to adequate food because of a lack of money and other resources.”

UHSC is a community organization founded in 2003 by Godwin and Veronica Akpan. Its mission is to offer services to surrounding neighborhoods, including New City and Englewood, by providing a weekly food pantry, transportation services, counseling ministry, youth development and urban/rural gardening initiative.

The non profit’s food pantry was started in 2008 and is especially useful to Partee because he is able to receive free fruits and vegetables to sustain his lifestyle.

Chicago ranks high among cities in the United States that are crippled by food insecurity.  According to the Greater Chicago Food Depository, more than 860,000 people in Cook County are food insecure and unsure of when they will receive their next meal.

A unique feature about UHSC is that it services all residents of Cook County unlike many local pantries that have residency restrictions.

“We are here to feed the underprivileged people, the needy and orphaned,” said Veronica Akpan.  The pantry feeds an estimated 180 families per week, which translates into about 1,000 people.

Much of the food the pantry distributes is donated but the Akpans also use their own dollars to purchase food for the pantry.  UHSC does not receive state funding.

USHC depends on volunteers for food pantry operations from stuffing grocery bags to food distribution.
Sandra Anderson, the head of a seven-member household also frequents the pantry on a regular basis.

“It helps feed me and my children,” Anderson said.

Groceries from the pantry lasts her family about a week, and like Partee, Anderson also visits several food pantries to make ends meet.
She says the economy has played a role in her increased usage of the food pantries.

“They cut the food stamps… even with kids they are cutting them,” Anderson said. “Kids gotta eat.”

The pantry recipient does not visit the UHSC just for food; she also visits for its religious and gardening programs.

“It’s a whole lot of different things they can help you with, but people don’t know because they don’t take the chance to stop and find out,” Anderson said of UHSC’s initiatives.

The pantry operates every Tuesday 10 a.m.-12 p.m.  Also, emergency food is available on Saturdays by appointment.

For information about USHC and its services, log on to or call 773-253-5063.

Local Food Pantries

La Villita | Little Village
La Villita Corps
3621 W. 24th St.
Chicago, IL, 60623
Horas de Operación: Cada 3er Jueves: 3 a 5 p.m.
Hours of Operation: Every 3rd Thursday: 3 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Cícero | Cicero
Templo Laramie Pantry
2337 S. Laramie Ave.
Cicero, IL, 60804
Horas de Operación: Martes, Miércoles y Jueves: 1 a 3 p.m.
Hours of Operation: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday: 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Humboldt Park | Humboldt Park
San Lucas Food Pantry
2914 W. North Ave.
Chicago, IL , 60647
Horas de Operación: 2° y 4° Sábado: 10 a.m. a 12 p.m. Emergencia: Lunes a Viernes: 9 a.m. a 2 p.m.
Hours of Operation: 2nd and 4th Saturday: 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. Emergency: Monday-Friday: 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Pilsen | Pilsen
St. Pius Parish Pantry
1901 S. Ashland Ave.
Chicago, IL, 60608
Horas de Operación: Martes: 3 a 6 p.m.
Hours of Operation: Tuesday: 3 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Las Empacadoras | Back of the Yards
Catholic Charities: Casa Catalina
4537 S. Ashland Ave.
Chicago, IL, 60609
Horas de Operación: Miércoles: 1:30 a 6 p.m. Horario de emergencia: Lun, Mar, Vie: 9 a.m. a 3 p.m. Jue: 11 a.m. a 3 p.m.
Hours of Operation: Wednesday: 1:30 pm – 6 p.m. Emergency hours: Mon, Tues, Fri: 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Thurs: 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

By: Thelma Sardin

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