Food pantry helping suburbanites cope - New York News

Food pantry helping suburbanites cope

Posted: Updated: March 2, 2012 1:52 PM CDT
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

We're teaming up with the Greater Chicago Food Depository to help fight hunger all year long.

While food drives are popular during the holiday season, hunger knows no season and we can all help feed those in need in the Chicagoland area.

We want to introduce you to the Willow Creek Care Center in the northwestern suburbs.

The suburbs have been hit hard by the recession. Poverty rates in suburbia are rising faster than any other residential setting across the country. And now it's no longer just the poor who are in need of assistance.

Armando Valdez and his mother are among the many guests receiving aid today at the Willow Creek Care Center food pantry in Hoffman Estates. Armando and his mom are homeless, struggling to get by, having to live with various friends and family members. And then there's the new face of hunger. It's no longer just the homeless or the very poor. It's now the once thriving, college educated middle class.

Meet Victor Perez. He's a volunteer at Willow Creek, but he was once on the receiving end after losing his accounting job during The Great Recession.

"A lot of people need help but they don't want to reach out because they don't think they need the help, they think they can do it on their own. But in these days people need help. They got to know there's places like this that can help them get over these tough times," Perez said.

Victor is now one of a thousand volunteers serving each month at Willow Creek.

"It's been very fulfilling. It's kind of hard to say I need help. And being able to provide that help now, I can help people who are having that trouble know that it's ok to ask for help," Perez said.

And help they provide. Pantry visits have surged in recent years. Last year alone, Willow Creek distributed over 4.2 million pounds of food and 75 percent of that food came from the Greater Chicago Food Depository. The demand for food is greater than ever.

"We saw over the last several years around 300 percent growth out here at the care center. And the number of guests just continued to increase and I also think we've seen the face of poverty change," said Tyler Grissom, Care Center Associate Director. "It's now middle class people who are now out of work showing up. They're choosing whether or not to pay their gas bill or put food on the table."

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