Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry’s mission is to work together as a community to reduce hunger locally through:
- direct hunger relief services
- hunger awareness education and
- advocacy to influence anti-hunger policy
Hunger may seem far away in a generally affluent community like Oak Park and River Forest. But even in the midst of affluence, people struggle with hunger. In Oak Park alone, it is estimated that over 7,000 individuals are “food insecure”—they do not know where their next meal is coming from. We’re not alone. 1 in 7 Americans struggles with Hunger. It is worse for families with children: 1 in 5 are food insecure.
Data from Map the Meal Gap 2016: a report on county and congressional district level food insecurity and county food cost in the United States 2014. Feeding America, 2016.
As part of its mission to reduce local hunger, in 2015, Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry provided nutritious groceries, produce, meat and dairy products to over 15,000 local families comprised of over 46,000 individuals. We serve residents of 12 zip codes including portions of the city of Chicago and most of the suburbs surrounding Oak Park. All clients must meet income guidelines and are limited to service once per month. Photo ID and proof of residency within our service boundaries are required for service.
Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry is staffed by a variety of full-time and part-time positions adding up to 11 FTE, 1 full time service learner via AmeriCorps, and over 350 volunteers who donate their time each month.
Each month, volunteers donate over 2100 hours of labor helping to feed their hungry neighbors. The value of that donated labor last fiscal year was over $175,000!
For over 35 years, the people of Oak Park and River Forest have come together to serve the hungry in our community. Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry was started in the late 1970’s by a small group of concerned citizens led by Patricia Funk, a local Girl Scout leader. Initially known as the Hunger Task Force Food Pantry, it was housed in the Faith United Methodist Church for several years. Soon after its inception, the Pantry became associated with the Community of Churches, now known as the Community of Congregations. Previous managers of the Pantry include Pat Savino, Patricia Koko, Alyce Bode, Karin Pietrini, Leah Beckwith, Anne Wakely, and Kathy Russell.
As the need for supplemental food grew in our community, the Pantry outgrew its space in Faith United Methodist Church. For a brief time, the Pantry operated out of a storefront before finding its current home within First United Church of Oak Park at 848 Lake Street. A generous landlord, First United not only offers the Pantry rent-free space, but also provides a high level of service and commitment from its staff, Faith in Action Committee, and congregation.
The Community of Congregations was a loving parent organization, overseeing a 10-fold growth in Pantry services in the early 2000’s, but as client need intensified, it became clear that the Pantry itself needed resources beyond the limits of its parent. Thus in 2010, the Pantry moved from being a program under the Community of Congregations to being a partner with them as a separate 501(c)(3).