As Gregory can attest, hungry neighbors often have to adapt to changing circumstances and evolving challenges.
Gregory has been visiting Crystal Lake Food Pantry off and on since the late 1990s. When times are good, his visits are few and far between. When times are tough, the pantry is essential to his survival.
When we met Gregory, it was a cold January day, and he was in the midst of particularly hard times and living on the street. Several months earlier, right before the onset of winter, he lost his job in building maintenance and his temporary home.
“This is about as low as I’ve been my entire life,” said Gregory, who arrived at the pantry on his bicycle. “I’m so glad the food pantry is here for people that really need it. I know there are a lot of people hurting out there. I’m not the only one.”
According to the Hunger in America 2014 study, four percent of the people served by Northern Illinois Food Bank live in temporary housing. As Gregory’s situation illustrates, the needs of these hungry neighbors present a unique set of challenges.
“I’m residentially challenged with no job, nowhere to cook and no access to hot water,” Gregory said. “What I like about the food pantry is I can get cans of food with pop-off tops and things I can eat on the go.”
Crystal Lake Food Pantry makes special accommodations for homeless members of the community, allowing them to visit up to four times per month because of their lack of access to adequate food storage. Gregory also visits two local soup kitchens for warm meals, but both kitchens are open only one day a week, so the food he receives at the pantry is critical.
On this visit, he especially appreciates picking up a packet of pre-made sandwiches donated by a local grocery store. Dried edamame, trail mix, a block of cheddar cheese and beef jerky are among the other items he adds to his cart along with assorted canned goods.
“Because I get around on a bicycle, I can only basically take what I can fit in a backpack,” Gregory said. “I put the backpack on my rack and maybe have a few bags hanging off the handle bars, but that’s it.”
As he zips up his backpack, Gregory takes a moment to reflect on his current situation.“It’s rough out there in the world,” he said, “but at least now I’m good for the week when it comes to food.”
February is Canned Food Month – Here’s How You Can Help Gregory and Neighbors Like Him: