New Food Pantry to Help Lincoln Square's Hungry Population
Two local residents are trying to take a bite out of hunger in Lincoln Square.
Two Lincoln Square residents are trying to change the fact that 1 out of 10 neighbors don’t know where their next meal will come from. Heidi Bush and Meghan Gutierrez are starting a food pantry for the area, called the Lincoln Square Friendship Center.
“There’s a common misconception that Lincoln Square is well off,” Bush said.
About 3,880 people in Lincoln Square are “food insecure,” meaning they won’t know where or when their next meal will be. That’s a higher rate than North Center, Lake View and Lincoln Park, according to a study by the hunger-relief charity Feeding America.
While the highest concentrations of people with food insecurity are in the west and south areas of the city, Bush said any need is worth an effort to help.
“It’s not that there’s more of a need somewhere else; the need is equal. It may be more people, but it’s the same need,” she said.
Bush and Gutierrez are now in the fundraising stage. With a $25,000 goal, they’re about $12,000 shy of the money they need to sign a lease. The two began fundraising about three months ago after five months of research. They’d like to reach the goal by April.
If the Friendship Center can sign a lease in the spring, the organization will start asking for volunteers, along with food and furniture.
Bush and Gutierrez envision a space that’s more of a shopping experience, where families can come in and choose their food based on a point system. The process will give clients more dignity, Gutierrez said.
“The point is to become a stop gap for people. No one is offering to pay rent or gas, so food is sacrificed,” Bush said. “The pantry gets that family to the next paycheck.”
The pastors were part of a group brought together by Ward 47 Ald. Ameya Pawar to identify needs in the area. Bush said the group found that several pantries had closed on the North Side in the last few years, and the ones still around have seen their client base double. Residents needed a pantry, and one closer than the Common Pantry at Damen and Grace Street.
During the research phase, Bush said she interviewed people who had to take off work to travel to a food pantry because of its distance from their home.
The two visited five pantries to learn operation logistics and develop a business plan. After meeting with Chicago’s food pantry, the Greater Chicago Food Depository, they decided to research pairing with an existing pantry.
That’s when the North Park Friendship Center stepped up. Just north of Albany Park, the center has been around for more than 40 years.
“They pretty much told us a ‘yes’ right away and have really been on board the whole time,” Bush said.
Lincoln Square’s Friendship Center will be an extension of the North Park location, with Bush and Gutierrez at the helm.
The two have been volunteering their time for almost a year, doing all of the research and planning on their own. But the project couldn’t have come at a better time.
Bush, who has a history in theater and teaching, decided to take a break from the stage. Two weeks later, Brown asked if she wanted to get involved. Gutierrez is a North Park University graduate and wanted to help out in her neighborhood.
Both live in Lincoln Square with their families.
Those interested in volunteering or donating can email firstname.lastname@example.org.