This Good News from Ravenswood comes courtesy of our good friend Margaret, former Development Director at the GRCC and current Executive Director of Common Pantry, Chicago’s longest-running food pantry. Common Pantry first opened its doors in 1967 and, over fifty years later, is getting a building of its own!
On Monday, Common Pantry announced the purchase of a Lincoln Avenue property that will help continue their fight against food insecurity. “Owning a building of our own is transformative for Common Pantry, which has been a mainstay, ingrained in the fabric of the Northcenter neighborhood for decades,” said Executive Director Margaret O’Conor. “We are deeply grateful to our community for all the support we’ve received over the years, and to our local and state elected officials for making this incredible step forward a reality for us.”
Acquisition of the property, located at 3900-3910 N. Lincoln Ave., was made possible in part with assistance from grants from the State of Illinois. The project also had the support of State Senator Sara Feigenholtz, State Representative Ann Williams, and 47th Ward Alderman Matt Martin. IFF, an agency that provides loans and support to mission-driven nonprofits, is offering development assistance and project financing.
There’s no reason for anyone in our community to face food insecurity. We can work together to solve this problem, and I’m glad to have Common Pantry as a partner in this.State Senator Sara Feigenholtz
Designing a new space will help the Pantry increase efficiency and accelerate it’s strategic plan to serve people in need. This announcement comes on the heels of a remarkably challenging year for organizations fighting food insecurity. Common Pantry served approximately 750 families per month at the height of the pandemic, compared to about 300 monthly in “normal” times.
A New Home, Just Around the Corner
“It was critical to Common Pantry leaders that we stay in the neighborhood we have called home for so long, and we are thrilled this opportunity presented itself,” said longtime board member and current President David Brown. “Our community has been so supportive of Common Pantry’s mission and we know we can count on them for help as we work to make the new space something everyone can be proud of.”
Common Pantry’s future HQ is just three and a half blocks from their longtime home at Epiphany United Church (3744 N Damen Ave). The new home offers a blank slate for Pantry leaders to carry out operations, like storing and distributing nonperishables, fresh produce and hot meals, and also build capacity to strengthen social service programs for guests.
“After decades of sharing our space with Common Pantry, Epiphany considers them as family, and our missions of service are intertwined,” the Rev. Kevin McLemore, pastor of Epiphany, said. “We are thrilled and look forward to continuing to work with them throughout this new beginning.”
Margaret and the board of Common Pantry keep coming up with new and creative ways to fight food insecurity. I can’t wait to see what they will come up with as they put their new space to use.47th Ward Alderman Matt Martin
The new location isn’t just bigger, it’s also closer to public transit, is ADA accessible, and has greater visibility on a major local thoroughfare. Fans of C’est Bien Thai – fret not! The neighborhood favorite isn’t going anywhere and will continue operating at 3900 N Lincoln Ave. Common Pantry will be selecting an architect and renovating their space before moving in, O’Conor said.
The acquisition should provide the Pantry new opportunities to engage the North Center, Ravenswood, Lincoln Square, and Roscoe Village communities.
Continuing Good Work
Despite the pandemic, Common Pantry continued programs like “Common Kids,” which helps youth volunteers understand the root causes of poverty, and the “I Am Your Neighbor” restaurant meal donations initiative. Throughout the ongoing health crisis, Common Pantry has not canceled a single food distribution day. Support from hundreds of volunteers, local businesses, schools, service organizations, and places of worship makes these vital services possible.
This October, Common Pantry will host its 10th “I Am Your Neighbor” Party, the organization’s largest fundraiser and celebration. With only three paid staff, Common Pantry relies on volunteers for many of its day-today operations. Volunteers help with everything from food distribution to organizing food drives and delivering meals to homebound seniors. One local neighbor even bakes fresh loaves of bread from his own grain for a weekly hot lunch. In 2020, volunteers logged 5,740 hours for the Pantry.
Food banks will be responding to the COVID-19 crisis for months and years to come, according to the Greater Chicago Food Depository 2020 Status Report. According to the Depository, food costs are likely to rise in the coming year. They also found that, without further action, food banks overall are projected to see a 50% reduction in USDA food in 2021.
About Common Pantry
Common Pantry, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit food pantry, was founded in 1967 to combat hunger and food insecurity in specific northern neighborhoods of Chicago. Common Pantry meets the emergency needs of our local community by providing healthy food, kinship and support to help overcome poverty-related challenges. For more, visit www.commonpantry.org.
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