September 2018 - Carly Marble, Summer 2018 Extern

After working at the UIHealth Pilsen food pantry this summer, I have realized that the pantry is about so much more than food; it is about love. Every single day I was blown away by all the ways simple acts of kindness can change lives, and how eager all the volunteers are to show love. I find that people often get caught up in personal differences and neglect to think about how we are the same. We all have our basic needs: food, shelter, and love just to name a few. The food pantry excels at providing more than just the food they advertise. Week after week, real relationships are formed and before you know it, people come for not only food, but for love. They can come for acceptance. They can come and feel welcome and cared for. This is especially demonstrated in the food pantry’s mission to serve more than just the typical canned and dried foods that are offered at so many other pantries I have worked with. The culturally relevant foods, as well as the many of pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables that are given away, are so appreciated and welcomed by the customers. Many of the shoppers express joy at the many options, and are grateful for the choice to shop for types of food that are not only healthy, but also enjoyable and fresh. I grew up in a home that was food insecure, so I know how difficult it can be to fulfill those needs without the necessary funds. The UIHealth food pantry makes this not only a possibility for its customers, but a priority. It was easy to see on a day to day basis how offering these choices is changing lives for the better. Additionally, the volunteers are amazing at making people coming to the pantry feel comfortable and helping them realize that there is no shame in asking for help. Food insecurity can often be framed as a shameful experience, when in fact, it is extremely common. According to the USDA, 15 million U.S. households were food insecure at some point in 2017. The kind and attentive attitude the volunteers demonstrate helps break down any initial reservations or shame that some customers may be experiencing. Their kind and helpful attitudes help shift the narrative away from shame and towards love. However, the UIHealth food pantry doesn’t limit their outreach to people who come to them. One of my favorite things to participate in every other week was making meal kits for the street medicine group to take to the homeless. I loved receiving the reports about how grateful people were to receive medical care from the group as well as food from the pantry. It excites me that we are able to go to people that can’t come to us and still help fulfill their basic needs and show them love. All these wonderful projects and the amazing volunteers that staff the pantry make it an organization that I am proud to be a part of. I am so excited to see the many ways that the UIHealth food pantry continues to help the community around it by providing food, as well as love, to the Pilsen community.

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