The shelves at 's food pantry are painfully bare.
That's what coordinators said Thursday, after spending about a week of, at times, servicing 90 families per day. The lack of enough food and donations has further emphasized the importance of an upcoming fundraiser—, which is set for June 23 at Soldier Field.
The pantry will be shuttling participants to the event that morning. But before then, they'll need more walkers and more donations; especially if they want to keep up with the growing needs of the community, fundraising assistant Kerry Nolan said.
These days, the number of families visiting the pantry is inching closer to 100, staff said. The typical daily case load is about 55 families, pantry coordinator Carol Ettema noted, and the upswing has been recent. She went from cupboard to cupboard on Thursday afternoon searching for scraps.
"Well, there's a little bit of cereal in this one," she said, moving on to the next compartment. "This one has no pasta at all and the next one has no rice. These are staple items."
The pantry is completely out of soup, despite the , which netted Together We Cope a substantial food donation. That supply was depleted by last week's clients.
"We plowed right through it," Ettema said. "Ninety families in one day? That's a lot of food. We're seeing a great deal of walk-ins. We had quite a few the other day … All the food pantries are going through this right now. It's not just us."
It's not unusal for families' food pantry needs to increase during the summer months when children are out of school and eating lunches at home, she said.
But donations can be a bit harder to come by when there aren't any major holidays on the horizon.
Nolan said that's why the Greater Chicago Food Depository agrees to match a certain amount of donations raised by Hunger Walk participants. A $500 fundraiser will get Together We Cope $100 in credits to the pantry. The matching system increases by steps to a potential $5,000 donation, which will earn TWC $1,000 in credits.
Ettema said food at the depository typically costs the pantry about 7 cents a pound, though some items can be pricier. Staff make the weekly trip to pick it up.
"For this coming week, we're placing a $900 order," she said. "A normal order might be $200 or $300. But during the last week of June, the depository is going to be closed. We're trying to stock up."
Ettema noted the the GCFD is also being impacted by the increased need for food. There's just not enough to go around and the donations don't always keep up, she said.
"The representatives from the (depository) said it may be one of those things where we go down to the state senators and have to plead for food," Ettema said. "There's not enough right now to allocate."
TWC staff are hoping the recent uptick in clients subsides and that more donations start flowing in. In the mean time, they'll keep their fingers crossed for an increase in participants for the upcoming walk.
"We want to encourage people to walk with us and raise money and if they can't, maybe if they can make a little donation, that would be nice," Nolan said. "If everyone does a little it will mean a lot. At this point, every bit helps."
If you're interested in either participating in or donating to the hunger walk, call Together We Cope at 708-633-5040 and ask for Kerry Nolan.
To donate food or money to the pantry, visit from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; and from 2 to 7p.m. on Thursday. Those wishing to conduct a food drive can contact Carol Ettema, pantry coordinator, at 708-633-5040.