Potato pickup: Food pantry shows off new van, new facility

All-volunteer Elmhurst-Yorkfield Food Pantry works to provide necessities to those in need

(Elmhurst Titan video by Dave Lemery)

ELMHURST – It took about a half dozen people to load 1,000 pounds of potatoes into the Elmhurst-Yorkfield Food Pantry‘s new minivan. There were probably another six or seven working to unload it once it reached the pantry.

Those numbers don’t count the effort it took to transport the potatoes to Illinois from Wisconsin, nor the time and labor required to grow the spuds in the first place.

But thanks to all that hard work, the food pantry can add those root vegetables to all the other resources available at their still-new facility at 1083 S. York St., just south of Butterfield Road behind the Yorkfield Presbyterian Church.

Good news for pantry

The new minivan arrived at the pantry just a few days before the potato pickup Saturday from Calvary United Methodist Church in Villa Park. The van was part of a gift from Grand Subaru in Bensenville, along with a check for $100,000 and a trunkload of donated food.

And the pantry building itself is also the result of a fundraising campaign that allowed the pantry to move out of a smaller cottage house and into a purpose-built facility in January 2016.

If this all sounds like an embarrassment of riches, it’s not. It’s what it takes for the pantry to feed the more than 800 families who came to the pantry in 2016.

Food pantry board member Larry Studer, who drove the van to pick up the potatoes, said that the pantry keeps its overhead to a minimum. It’s an all-volunteer organization, squeezing as much out of every dollar as it can to serve its clients.

“We waste practically nothing,” Studer said during a tour of the pantry, pointing to donated half-rolls of toilet paper. The rolls are collected from office buildings and bundled by a volunteer for the pantry; otherwise, they would just be discarded and replaced with full rolls each day.

Looking forward

Studer said that some of the most-needed categories for donations are personal hygiene, laundry and household cleaning products.

He said that gifts like the check from Grand Subaru will help put the food pantry, which has been in operation since 1983, onto a path toward long-term sustainability.

“[We’re creating] an operating strategy for the future,” Studer said.

And no matter what plans are put in place, the focus stays on the clients. Studer said the people the pantry helps aren’t moochers looking for a handout – they’re people who’ve hit hard times despite their best efforts.

“They have jobs, but they’re low-paying jobs,” he said.

And thanks to the food pantry, they have a chance to better their lives without having to worry too much about where the next meal will come from.