NEW WSCP Virtual Food Pantry
West Suburban Community Pantry (WSCP) has officially launched its Virtual Food Pantry, a new service that makes it easy for people facing hunger to order free groceries online so they can make ends meet. Users can place a virtual order anytime by visiting VirtualFoodPantry.net where they can choose the groceries they need and select a grocery pickup time and place most convenient to them. The launch coincides with the unveiling of the Pantry’s new website, www.wscpantry.org designed to provide easy access to information for customers, donors and volunteers.
The Virtual Food Pantry provides free food assistance to residents of DuPage County, Bolingbrook and Romeoville, offering several grocery pickup locations across Chicago’s southwestern suburbs. The service offers community members a variety of food and grocery items, including fresh produce, pantry staples, household items, personal care products, diapers and baby wipes, and more.
“If the pandemic has showed us anything, it’s that online access to shopping has made life easier for everyone. And everyone needs access to nutritious food for our community to truly be healthy and strong,” said Laura Traut-Coyle, Executive Director of West Suburban Community Pantry. “Yet many of our neighbors aren’t getting the nutrition they need. The Virtual Food Pantry is making it easier for people struggling to get by as they juggle work, childcare, and other responsibilities to quickly access free groceries. The Pantry is committed to eliminate hunger in our community. The Virtual Food Pantry is one way families can get help they need so they can face each day with confidence.”
Among the early users of the Virtual Food Pantry are families at B.J. Ward Elementary School in Bolingbrook. Parents order groceries online and then pick up their orders at the school. In addition to providing solid nutrition to help students learn, the program also helps connect families with other services available through Ward’s Community School model.
Alfred Morales, Administrator for Family and Community Engagement for the Valley View School District says using technology can be a challenge for some parents. “We’ve moved so much online- this is the way families check student grades, engage in remote learning, it’s become a way of life both in and out of school. Using the Virtual Pantry allows families to get more comfortable with technology and encourages them to access all kinds of resources available through the internet,” he says. “Our families are very honest-they tend to order only when they truly need help-they’re not looking for a handout. If their circumstances improve, they don’t take food others can use. This is a very caring community.”
The Virtual Food Pantry’s launch comes as West Suburban Community Pantry continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although some families are back at school and work, COVID-19 continues to impact many lives. Additionally, research suggests that low-income households struggle the most as they seek to recover from economic shocks. At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, demand for food assistance virtually doubled, and today, the Pantry is still serving an increased number of households compared to pre-pandemic levels.
B.J. Ward Principal Kathy Nigro points out that the school is committed to helping all children enjoy success in school. Ninety percent of her students qualify for free or reduced breakfast and lunch support. “Hungry kids can shut down, be moody and unfocused, can act out in class,” she says. “The Virtual Food Pantry allows us to keep kids and their families well-fed and eliminates a major challenge families may struggle with. Contact with parents through pick up allows us to determine other resources families may need and lower those barriers to a good education. Teachers see children more likely to access the curriculum. Everyone wins.”
Morales says the Virtual Food Pantry is getting orders from other neighbors in need and from families of other area schools. “The need is there, “ he says. “Our whole goal is to wrap services around the family so the child can do better. But no school can do everything. We need partners to make programs like this work- and the better the partner, the better the kids do. From the on-line ordering to the delivery to the on-site refrigeration provided by the Pantry, this partnership with the West Suburban Community Pantry is the best.”
For the past fifty years, WSCP has provided families facing hunger with nourishing meals. The Pantry has learned that even though everyone goes through difficult times, sometimes it isn’t easy for our neighbors to ask for help. Establishing the Virtual Food Pantry is part of the organization’s ongoing commitment to develop innovative services that meet people facing hunger with dignity and respect. The service provides people with a discreet way to get support when they face challenges putting food on the table.
“Struggling families may be going without meals due to the stigma of asking for help,” said Kevin Delano, Chair of West Suburban Community Pantry’s Board of Directors. “WSCP is dedicated to offering private, judgment-free grocery assistance through the Virtual Food Pantry so none of our neighbors go to bed hungry.”
As the COVID-19 crisis continues, WSCP anticipates serving more households for many months to come. The Virtual Food Pantry will offer a critical lifeline to households in need of free groceries to get through tough times. To register to receive free groceries, customers should visit VirtualFoodPantry.net .