Out of the more than half a million people served by Northern Illinois Food Bank each year, 62 percent face the difficult and sometimes nigh-on impossible choice of whether to pay for food or medical care with their limited income.
Take Ernie, for example. After a sudden death event in 2010 left him with a pacemaker to regulate his heart, he has been unable to work. “I’ve always been in transportation of some sort,” he says, recalling the years he spent as the manager of a school bus company. “So that kind of put me out of a job. [Now] I’m on disability.”
While Medicare, an insurance plan with AARP and United Healthcare, and his disability check help cover monthly expenses (including the ten different medications he is prescribed), Ernie’s visits to his primary care doctor and cardiologist every three months can quickly overwhelm the modest budget he and his wife abide by.
Thankfully, Luke 3:11 Share Center is just a short drive from their home in nearby Lindenhurst.
Ernie shares that he visits several other local pantries as well – but it’s really the Share Center that feels like home.
“It’s not a food pantry here,” he says. “It’s family. That’s important to me. It doesn’t mean you have to be related by blood. They always make me feel welcome.”
The volunteers at Luke 3:11 are always active in helping make people feel welcome, whether that’s assisting with the climb to and from the basement where the shopping area is located or carrying boxes out to waiting cars.
For Ernie, those boxes are filled with chicken breasts, canned and fresh vegetables, and other groceries that help make sure his family of two has all they need.
“They’re just wonderful here,” he says. “I love them.”
6.8 percent of people living in Lake County – which includes Ernie’s home of Lindenhurst – struggle with knowing where their next meal might come from. Of that percentage, many face medical challenges and costs that can further complicate their quest for a full plate.
But thanks to Luke 3:11 Share Center and other Northern Illinois Food Bank member agencies, food versus medicine is one choice they don’t have to make.