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My Pantry Express Helps People Who Need Good Food Now

Are you aware of My Pantry Express? It is an online food pantry with pick-up locations just up the road from Lake Bluff and Lake Forest at Forrestal Elementary School in North Chicago and at the Walmart at Fountain Square Plaza in Waukegan.

My Pantry Express is different from traditional food banks in that it lets customers who self-identify as being in need of food shop online and then pick up their order at its pantry locations. “Self-identify” means there are no restrictions based on income, residency, SNAP (aka food stamps) or other criteria. If you need food, you can order food. And it’s not just canned and frozen food. The shopping list varies each week based on donations, but generally there are 35 items that people can choose from such as milk, fresh produce, frozen meat, canned foods, pantry staples and more.

The key is this is nutritional food,” said volunteer Kathy Blahunka of Lake Bluff. “We almost always have milk, and often have eggs and yogurt. To date we have had chicken and beef. The produce varies, but we should be getting more now since farmers have been having excess due to distribution problems and Feeding America has stepped in.”

The online pantry was launched in February 2019 by the Northern Illinois Food Bank and its community partners.

The sites in Lake County are:

  • Walmart Automotive Care Center, 3900 Fountain Square Plaza, Waukegan Pick up time: Tuesday and Wednesday from 1 to 2:30 p.m.

  • Forrestal Elementary School, 2833 Washington Avenue, North Chicago (across from the Great Lakes Naval Base) Pick up time: Wednesday from 4:30 to 5:15 p.m.

Clients must order online at MyPantryExpress.org. “But people are welcome to come at the end of the pick-up period to see if there is extra, should they miss opportunity to sign up,” said Blahunka, volunteer lead at the Walmart pick-up on Tuesdays. The Walmart pantry is getting 100 orders per week, and the Forrestal Village is at about 70 and growing.

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need for food support in Lake County (and yes, here at home in LF-LB). My Pantry Express is committed to remaining open, but it has made temporary changes to adhere to guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. For example, at this time clients can't select specific food items -- the bags each week are based on what is available.

Clients now must drive up to the pantry (look for the My Pantry Express sign), provide their order number, and open their trunk, tailgate or rear hatch. Pantry volunteers will load the order into the car. The procedure ensures safe social distancing.

Orders are limited to one order per household per week.

If you could benefit from the food provided by My Pantry Express or know someone who might benefit, please click here.

If you would like to help My Pantry Express, you can donate money: Every $1 donated provides $8 worth of nutrition.

You can also sign up to volunteer. There are some limits to helping at My Pantry Express due to the pandemic, but there are many volunteer opportunities at Northern Illinois Food Bank in general. Click here for more information on volunteering.

This is what the order screen looks like at MyPantryExpress.org