Geneseo-Atkinson Food Pantry adds services for new 'holistic approach'

Claudia Loucks
For the Republic
Michael Sigwalt, showing off the classroom area of the Matthew 25 Center, is director of the Geneseo-Atkinson Food Pantry..

The Geneseo-Atkinson Food Pantry is much more than a place to distribute food and clothing. The Matthew 25 Center recently opened at the pantry, 620 West Main S t. in Geneseo.

The Center is named after Biblical scripture, Matthew 25, which gives instruction to “help people in need.”

Located in the west wing of the building, the Center is where a convenience store once was. When the pantry opened at the West Main St. location in 2018, walls were built to create a private space that would eventually be used for coaching guests to help them with the goals. That time has come.

Walls were painted and floors were carpeted, electrical outlets and furniture were added to create a private space for coaching guests to help them with their goals and the space also is used as an intern’s office. Kewanee's Morgan Holthaus is completing her Master Social Work practicum at the food pantry. She will finish in May of 2023 and is helping food pantry staff collaborate with other agencies to provide needed services for the guests who visit the Geneseo-Atkinson pantry.

The larger room in the Center is used for packing and distributing school supplies, Thanksgiving baskets and to display toys for guests to choose from for their children for Christmas.

The Matthew 25 Center will also be used for classes and groups, including GED training, nutrition classes, financial planning and other classes that will be helpful to Food Pantry guests.

Michael Sigwalt, director of the food pantry, said the programs at the Center will be driven by the results of a guest survey that will be distributed to help staff learn how to best meet the needs of their guests.

He said the focus will be on the pillars of the Social Determinants of Health, which include:

  • Heath care.
  • Neighborhood/environment.
  • Social and community context.
  • Economic sustainability.
  • Education.

“We won’t touch on all the possible SDOH elements, but it will help guide us in our program choices,” Sigwalt said, and added, “Essentially, we’re trying to adopt a more holistic approach to a person’s wellness.”

Nicole Freadhoff, assistant director at the pantry, said, “We are currently partnering with Hammond-Henry Hospital for the nutrition classes. We recently offered a Disaster Preparedness workshop under the direction of the Illinois Extension.”

The Center is designed with an area where guests can use a computer to fill out applications for jobs, housing or other assistance.

“We are learning that our guests have many needs, in addition to food, clothing and emergency assistance, so we are trying to address some of those needs," Freadhoff said.

The food pantry also is partnering with Unity Point to provide a foot care clinic twice each month, where nurses will soak, trim and file toenails, provide help for ingrown toenails and give a light massage with lotion. To schedule an appointment for the foot care clinic should call the pantry at 309-944-3165.

Food is distributed at the pantry from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Mondays; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays; and from 9 a.m. to noon on Fridays. The clothing room is open to all residents of Geneseo and Atkinson during food pantry hours on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays during food pantry hours.

According to Freadhoff, the number of guests receiving food increased 17 percent form June to July, 2022; the number of guests receiving food increased 179 percent form July 2021 to July 2022.

”We’ve added four new volunteers to help with the increasing number of guests coming to receive food,” she said. “We still have a waiting list of people who want to volunteer, so that is a blessing.”