The Fourth Annual Holiday Food Drive starts Tuesday in Aurora, and will run through Nov. 23, the day before Thanksgiving.
The goal is to collect enough food to stock shelves at Aurora’s Interfaith Food Pantry throughout the year, and organizers say the need grows each year.
According to Food Pantry Director Marilyn Weisner. In August of this year, the Food Pantry served 2,855 households, compared to 1,959 in August 2010. The number of bags of food distributed jumped from 3,202 to 4,939 over that same time.
In June, July and August, the pantry gave out more than 140,000 pounds of food each month, while receiving a little more than 100,000 pounds of food in June, and less than 100,000 pounds in July and August.
Government contributions have dropped and the state has told pantries not to expect anything from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program. The federal government informed the Aurora pantry it would take a 40 percent cut in the emergency food and shelter grant.
That’s one reason food drive organizers are trying to collect double the 55 pallets of food gathered last year.
One way organizers hope to do that is with a new store participating. The Jewel Food Store, 1157 N. Eola Road will join Cermak Fresh Market, 1250 N. Lake St., and Prisco’s Fine Foods, 1108 Prairie St.
But having one more store means “we need more volunteers than ever,” says Dan Dolan, of Dolan & Murphy, Inc., in Aurora, a food driver organizer.
Cheryl Kessler, of Dolan & Murphy, is in charge of recruiting and organizing volunteers. She said she has gotten enough volunteers to start sorting and boxing food at the warehouse.
“We are still in need of volunteers to hand out fliers at the stores,” she says. “The success of the (drive) is the pre-packaged bags of food sold at the stores. The strength of our sales depends on volunteers handing out informational flyers to customers as they enter the stores.”
She also noted the number of sales quadruples when volunteers hand out fliers.
The work can be done by almost anyone. Sometimes, groups volunteer to take a day or several days at a store, and other times individuals, from high school students to retirees, take shifts.
She said organizers are particularly looking for Spanish-speaking volunteers for the Cermak store location.
During the drive, people can purchase pre-assembled bags of food at a cost of $5, $10 and $15 at each of the stores. They buy the pre-made bags, which are on display at the store, as they go through the regular shopping lane. The bags then are collected, and volunteers pick them up as they fill a giant box at the front of each store.
Volunteers should call Kessler at 630-801-8800.