The excitement is palpable as you walk into the newly-remodeled Glen Ellyn Food Pantry, nestled in the lower level of Grace Lutheran Church in downtown Glen Ellyn.
At the end of the bright, sunlit hallway is the check-in and waiting room, which smells deliciously of the baked goods that line the shelves in the back corner of the room. In the shopping area, fully-stocked shelves featuring a variety of beans, grains, canned goods, cereals and non-food household items are organized, waiting to be plucked from the shelves. Refrigerators in the back of the room are filled with milk, eggs, and on this day, are overflowing with family-sized bags of fruits and vegetables—foods often considered to be a luxury for those in need, despite being some of the most-needed.
The pantry, which took 9,000 appointments and distributed 900,000 pounds of food in 2015 alone, is back to business as usual after closing Memorial Day weekend and reopening its doors August 1. The Pantry underwent two months of renovations which included new floors and shelving, and reconfiguring the space in order to meet the rising needs of those in the communities it serves, including Glen Ellyn and bordering towns of Wheaton, Lombard, Carol Stream, Lisle and Glendale Heights.
Executive Director Susan Papierski, who has led the pantry for the last eight of her 12 years with the organization, notes that there were two main goals for the pantry remodel: get more food to the growing number of those in need, and provide a better “client choice” shopping experience.
“Before, our clients used a paper shopping list and it was such a small, confined space that they couldn’t really shop around and put items in the cart themselves,” Papierski says. “But now, they shop each aisle and put things right in their bags while our team fills other special items on their list, like produce.”
She adds that they now have the ability to handle more walk-ins, and due to greater awareness in the community, there has been new traffic to the pantry. In fact, in just the first two months after reopening its doors, they have already served 45 more appointments per week—an increase of 37.5 percent.
And although the remodel has quickly proved to be effective, Papierski already has her sights set on some new goals—like a record-setting Holiday Meal Box season. “The additional inventory space and ability to recover more product from our amazing retail partners will allow us to distribute over 600 meal boxes this holiday season,” she says. Beyond that, Papierski is also evaluating ways to add more appointments to their schedule. She notes that just two more appointments per week would serve an additional 750 families per year, ensuring even more of our hungry neighbors don’t have to miss a meal.
The Glen Ellyn Food Pantry began in 1979 when the church’s high school youth group collected food for those in need. Today, the Pantry is a shared endeavor between 16 Glen Ellyn Churches, including:
“We are very blessed by the support of local retail partners, community organizations, churches, schools and individuals in our community who helped make it possible for us to better help those in need!”
–Susan Papierski, Executive Director, Glen Ellyn Food Pantry