Geneseo & Cambridge Food Pantries impacted by Pandemic, holidays

by Claudia Loucks, correspondent

GENESEO-ATKINSON FOOD PANTRY AT 620 WEST MAIN ST.

GENESEO – The mission of the Geneseo-Atkinson Food Pantry is to provide assistance to people in need, a need that continues to increase as a result of the current pandemic.

Jolynn Kitterman, director of the Food Pantry said the number of households being served has steadily increased since March…”The Pandemic Unemployment Program ended in July, which placed additional hardships on many families,” she said. “The story I hear most often is loss of employment or hours cut due to the pandemic. This has put families in a hardship they never imagined.”

In addition to basic needs, the food pantry staff and volunteers are conducting a toy drive and Kitterman said, “Many parents do not have extra money right now to purchase Christmas presents for their children. New, unwrapped toys can be donated from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays, through Dec. 14. Donations of toys can also be left in the carts located outside the entrance to the food pantry.”

Kitterman said the staff is seeing a lot of new clients, “many who never imagined they would need the services the Food Pantry provides. It’s hard, and they don’t want to ask for help, but are left in a situation beyond their control.”

In October, there were 72 families served and near the end of November, that number had climbed to 86 and Kitterman said she expects that number to increase in December.

“As a result of the generosity of our community, every family we served in November received a Thanksgiving basket complete with a turkey, or a gift card to purchase a turkey, in addition to their monthly food basket,” she added.

The food pantry is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays for donations of food and hygiene items. Carts, in which donors can place their donations, are placed outside the doors of the food pantry in an effort to keep everyone safe.

Kitterman said clients will be provided with Christmas food baskets and there is a need of hams to add to the baskets…”Many of our clients are single and elderly so smaller hams would be helpful.”

“Anyone who would like to provide a family with a complete Christmas meal can find out more by visiting www.geneseofoodpantry.org and clicking on the “Learn More” button for information,” she said.

Clients of the food pantry also are provided with personal hygiene items and additional needs are household cleaners, laundry detergent, liquid dish soap, toilet paper, paper towels, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.

Donations of clothing are not currently being accepted as the “shopping room” at the food pantry is now closed due to the increase of COVID-19 cases.

Food items are distributed to families from 9 to 11:30 a.m. on Tuesdays of each week. Clients must be residents of Geneseo or Atkinson and must show proof of residency the first time they visit the food pantry. Other times to visit the pantry can be arranged by calling 309-944-3165.

Jolynn Kitterman is director of the Geneseo-Atkinson Food Pantry at 620 West Main St., Geneseo. The pantry is under the umbrella of the Geneseo Ministerial Association. Photo by Claudia Loucks

CAMBRIDGE FOOD PANTRY AT 132 WEST CENTER ST.

The Cambridge Food Pantry also has a need for food items. Larry Lavin, food pantry coordinator, said there has been a five percent increase in the number of families served at the food pantry, “so the need for food items is greater than normal, however the support the pantry receives is overwhelming. The community churches, organizations, businesses, and especially individuals have always supported the pantry well.”

He cited the biggest change at the food pantry since the onset of the pandemic “is the way we distribute items. Instead of having people come into the pantry to select the items they want, we pre-bag everything, load a grocery cart, and take it to their vehicles. They don’t enter the building at all, so they and the volunteers stay safe. Because we pre-bag everything, we distribute more food items than we previously did. We go through things a lot faster.”

The Cambridge Food Pantry is open once each month, usually from 3 to 5 p.m. on the third Sunday of the month, and from 9 to 10 a.m. on the following Monday. Days and times are posted at all churches, the library, post office and at many businesses in the village.

There are no special meals planned for Christmas, but at Thanksgiving, each person visiting the pantry received a 10-12 lb. turkey.

Lavin said specific needs at the pantry are canned fruits and vegetables, frozen dinners, cereal, laundry detergent and toothpaste and other personal hygiene items. The pantry does not distribute clothing items.

People using the Cambridge Food Pantry must live in the Cambridge School District and meet State of Illinois income guidelines.

Items can be donated to the pantry by making an appointment with Lavin at 309-945-5426 and anyone interested in making a monetary donation should make checks out to the Cambridge Food Pantry and mail them to Larry Lavin at 11017 East 1500th St., Cambridge, IL 61238.

Larry Lavin is the coordinator of the Cambridge Food Pantry at 132 West Center St., Cambridge.