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Fighting to Help the Underprivileged
The Pilsen Food Pantry has started a petition to encourage the Archdiocese of Chicago to consider its offer to purchase the old church where it operates. The food pantry is in a convenient location and is heavily used by the community. Most of its patrons come on foot, so moving to another location would be detrimental to this neighborhood.
Dr. Evelyn Figueroa originally opened the pantry inside the old Lower Westside Board of Health building located at 1713 South Ashland. In March 2020, they moved to the old Holy Trinity Roman Croatian Parish located at 1850 South Throop Street.
Pilsen Food Pantry Is a Staple for Many
The Pilsen Food Pantry has a variety of items available for the community. Including “culturally-sensitive perishable (fruit, vegetables, eggs, cheese, meat, chicken, fish, etc), non-perishable foods (grains, beans, peanut butter, canned items), and household items like menstrual supplies, toothpaste, and light bulbs,” according to the Figueroa Wu Family Foundation website.
In addition to sponsoring the food pantry, the foundation also organizes seasonal clothing and supply drives. The Pilsen Food Pantry aims to improve the community’s health and social outcomes through the distribution of fresh, culturally-appropriate foods.
Many in the community suffer from food insecurity. This worsens health by increasing rates of depression, hypertension, diabetes, and additional conditions. This increases health care costs. Food insecurity can shorten a person’s life expectancy. This is a problem that has a solution.
The Pilsen Food Pantry receives its food offerings from daily pickups and deliveries from Greater Chicago Food Depository, Imperfect Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Urban Canopy. They also have donations from midwest farms, ad hoc wholesaler arrangements, food drives, and from the Hunger Resource Network.
Aid to Many
They are also involved in extensive mutual aid to the South, West, and Southwest sides. This includes Food Not Bombs, Gage Park Community Council, Love Fridge, Instituto Del Progreso Latino, and UIC COM Chicago Street Medicine.
For their homebound clients, they offer a free delivery service. The Pilsen Food Pantry is open from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday-Wednesday and Friday. On Thursdays, they are open from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. However, they are not open on national holidays.
Buying the Property
In February, Dr. Figueroa submitted a proposal to buy the property, including the lot across the street, for roughly $3 million, to the Archdiocese of Chicago. However, it’s been months since she has heard anything. “They haven’t responded to us even though they promised they would respond to us,” she stated.
Figueroa believes they may be waiting for a better deal. She added they have repetitively gone to the aldermen asking them “to please sign off on selling properties in this community to developers other than non-profits.”
What the Archdiocese Had to Say
A representative for the Archdiocese of Chicago stated that it is the parish’s decision to sell or not sell a building, according to WGN-9. Apparently, the St. Procopius Parish has yet to finalize any “plans for the former Holy Trinity Croatian Parish,” said the statement from the archdiocese. As soon as they do they “will alert the food pantry.” At that time the Pilsen Food Pantry’s “leadership will have the opportunity to discuss their interest further.”
Additionally, the statement said, “Since the pantry moved in at the outset of the pandemic, around March 2020, it has operated rent-free and expense free at a sizeable cost to the parish. The parish has generously spent nearly $200,000 to subsidize gas, electric, and water utilities, insurance, and services, such as garbage pickup and maintenance.”
On average, the Pilsen Food Pantry services 374 clients a week. If they have to move locations many community members would be unable to receive the help they need in an effective manner. It is difficult for many families to find access to fresh fruits and vegetables which is why many feel it is imperative for the pantry to stay where it is.
The 25th Ward IPO tweeted, “SIGN: Our beloved Pilsen Food Pantry that serves hundreds of families is fighting to keep its doors open as the Archdiocese stays silent on the future of the pantry. We need your help to DEMAND that the archdiocese comes to the table and negotiate a sale!” They added that if anyone wants to “get involved? DM us to join our Pilsen food pantry committee where we organize on this issue!”
Currently, the petition only needs 953 more signatures to reach its goal of 3,200. To add your name to the petition you can go to: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/stand-with-the-pilsen-food-pantry-keep-us-on-throop-street
“We can’t just move a mile west. A third of our clients come by foot. It will not be accessible for them.” https://t.co/1EuySMngyz
— WGN TV News (@WGNNews) November 17, 2022
Help the Pilsen Food Pantry stay in its convenient location. “We can’t just move a mile west,” Figueroa said. “A third of our clients come by foot. It will not be accessible for them.”
By Sheena Robertson
WGN-9: East Pilsen food pantry wants archdiocese to consider its offer to buy old church
Primary Care Collaborative: Evelyn Figueroa, MD
Figueroa Wu Family Foundation: Pilsen Food Pantry
Action Network: Stand With the Pilsen Food Pantry – Keep Us on Throop Street!