Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Poverty persists in Niles Township

I recently met the very nice and hardworking director of the NIles Food Pantry, Cynthia Carranza. She would like everyone to know about the persistence of poverty in this area despite the affluence around us. Here is a piece from the NIles township government website:


People are surprised to learn that even in our “affluent” communities there are many people, young, elderly and in-between, who do not have the resources to feed themselves or their families adequately. That is why the Niles Township Food Pantry exists – to aid those who need food, especially on an emergency basis. We want to make sure that every person has the food they need to sustain themselves, so we are always seeking donations to help the over 1,500 individuals who use our pantry every month.

Due to federal government cutbacks, we are receiving less food to distribute.

That is why we are always grateful to receive donations of the following items: turkeys, hams, roasting chickens, canned fruit, bottled or canned juice, small jars of jelly, macaroni & cheese, peanut butter, canned soups, boxed pasta dishes, pasta, boxed rice dishes, mixed vegetables, canned tuna, stuffing mix, small jars of mayonnaise, small cans of coffee, small boxes of tea, crackers, packaged cookies, gravy (dry or liquid), pie shells (dry or frozen), pie fillings, and cake mixes.

We are also asking for donations of personal care items. Often, people who need food are also in need of other basic items for their daily personal needs. These items include: razors (men/women), shaving cream, aftershave, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner, soap, lotion, feminine hygiene products, tissues, toilet paper, laundry detergent, bleach, toothbrushes and toothpaste, and mouthwash.

There are numerous opportunities for groups to help the Pantry, by participating in the Hunger Walk for the Greater Chicago Food Depository, or conducting a food drive. Please contact us for more information.

We would like to thank the generous people of Niles Township.


Athens Job & Family Services said...

Demand on food banks reflects lack of adequate benefits through “safety net” programs

The news has been filled with stories of food pantries and soup kitchens that are struggling to meet the growing problem of hunger. These groups are frequently staffed with volunteers and depend on donations. They deserve our gratitude. The growing demand on food banks reflects the failure of our elected officials to provide adequate benefits through “safety net” programs. What happened to the safety net of Food Stamps, Supplemental Social Security Income and TANF cash assistance? These programs were intended to meet the basic needs of low income citizens. It is extremely distressing to see that the official government policy for feeding hungry people is to rely on the charity of food pantries and soup kitchens.

Forty years ago the Food Stamp program was established to end hunger in America. Yet, it was only designed to provide 75% of what the U.S. Department of Agriculture determined necessary to meet minimum nutritional needs. Poor families were expected to make up the rest with cash. Unfortunately, that is nearly impossible for those who must rely on SSI or TANF. The payment levels for these programs are very low. It is difficult for these people to find extra cash to buy food when they spend every dime available for rent, utilities, and other essentials. As a result our food pantries must deal with constant demands from people who are already receiving help from the safety net.

This is unconscionable. This is not the Depression. People need to be able to get their food from the grocery store and should not have to wait in lines to get a meal or box of food. We cannot continue to rely on the kindness of volunteers and donations to meet a responsibility that we all have towards our less fortunate neighbors. We must insist that our government officials ensure that our safety net does its job.


Anonymous said...

My school recently donated 1,790 cans and other non perishable items to that food pantry on November 30th 2007; we recieved no thank you or any information on how the food was used. Cynthia Carrenza is not bieng very truthful here by saying there is a decline of food during December 2007

CCYL said...

Thank you so much for your comment. I'm sorry you didn't have a good donation experience. I wish you'd provided more info on your claim that Carranza wasn't being truthful. I welcome you to repost if you have statistics on that!

I should clarify that "Due to federal government cutbacks. we are receiving less food to distribute" wasn't written for Dec. That message has been on their website for a while. The idea of lower federal food donations in 2007 is supported in many places. Please see my Jan 3 entry with a Jim Leher News Hour video. Experts interviewed include Kate Maher, Exec Director of the Greater Chicago Food Depository, which supports the Niles pantry. Again, they refer to donations from federal programs...not from very generous community donors like yourself. My Jan 5 entry further explores the low donation phenom.

I can't comment on why you didn't get thanked, but it's my experience as a donor that when I donate to small agencies at busy times, I don't always receive written notes unless I've asked for tax purposes. I hope this does not deter you from continuing your good works!

Thank you again for your comments.

CCYL said...

Dear Anonymous,

Don't know if this will reach you, but this is a reply from Cynthia Carranza in response to your comments. In addition to her response, she'd like to know where you're located so that your thank you can be expedited...if you prefer to remain anonymous, you may work through me and I will forward your letter to you without revealing your name and location to her.
Dear Anonymous,

I am very sorry that you didn't have a good donating experience. I am also very sorry you feel that I have not been truthful. To help you understand my point of view, I want to tell you about what it’s like to run a Food Pantry of this size. Although I’m very busy, your comments were rather hurtful and I feel it important to tell you the real facts.

Starting in July we went from receiving 8,000lbs. of food per month from the Greater Chicago Food Depository (our area food bank) to receiving 2,000lbs. In addition to receiving the 8,000lbs of food, I would still purchase an additional 8,000lbs per month. Although hard to believe, that is the truth. In addition to the dramatic decrease in food, we have had a dramatic increase in clients. There have been almost 100 new families each month. It may surprise you to learn that 1,700 cans of food lasts only about two days around here. Not to mention that November and December are insanely busy months. So busy that nothing else other than taking in donations and serving people gets done. Unfortunately, those two months are really the only months anyone even thinks of our Food Pantry. The other ten months of the year we are forgotten. We are very grateful that people think of us in those two months, but people need to eat year round. Not just in November and December.

Regarding your wish for a thank you letter: Thank you’s are very important to us, but our priority must be to serve our clients even when we are short-staffed. Right now I am behind in a lot of work. I still haven’t been able to send Thank You cards for everything. We are missing a valuable staff member and I have temporary help to train and watch over. Last month, I also had to re-certify 500 seniors on our Catholic Charity program. I can go on and on. I am one person doing an immense amount of work. Perhaps these details can help you understand what it is like at a local food pantry. It would be nice to have a donor-relations staff to take care of thank you letters, but we’re small and that’s not in our means. I am truly sorry if I have been unable to send a Thank you note yet. My advice to you is to be patient and perhaps ask yourself a question as well: Did you give because you wanted to truly help people or did you give because you wanted a feel good experience? If you have given from your heart, and wanted to make sure that hungry people had food to put in their stomachs then feel comfortable in the knowledge that you succeeded.

I work so hard to make sure that people who need this Food Pantry get the best food possible as well as items to meet other basic needs. Their needs go far beyond needing food. Some of these people can’t even afford toothpaste or soap. There are Mothers who come in asking for formula for their infant baby. In November and December I ordered festive bags and made each household a lovely bag of food with all the stuff they would need in order to have a holiday meal. They also received a 12-14lb turkey. If it wasn’t for us most of these people would not be able to have a holiday meal literally. At this time in addition to all the work that I have to do, I am installing software that will help generate Thank you notes. You may not have received a Thank you note by mail, but EVERY single person that’s donates to this Food Pantry receives an official Thank You card at the time of donation. No matter if they donate one small bag of food or a car full. This card has the Township stamp on it with a thank you from the Supervisor and the Board of Trustees. This Thank You card also is a tax receipt for your donation. You may not have received a Thank You letter by mail, but someone in your organization did did receive an official Thank You Card when your items were dropped off.

I hope this helps your understanding of the situation and that you and your group continue to give generously to organizations that help people at-risk for hunger.

Thank you,
Cynthia A. Carranza
Director of the Niles Township Food Depository