Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital (Courtesy www.hinesva.gov)

Just in time for Veteran’s Day, a new food pantry at the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital opened its doors for the first time Nov. 6 with the hopes of serving thousands of area veterans in great need.

 The food pantry will operate as a collaborative effort between Hines, the Greater Chicago Food Depository and AmeriCorps. 

While the Greater Chicago Food Depository will be supplying the food for the pantry, volunteers from both Hines and the Greater Chicago Food Depository will help staff the operation with members from AmeriCorps managing weekly operations.

The opening of the Hines food pantry means that the Chicago now has two food pantries operating solely for veterans and their families. Last year on Veteran’s Day, the GCFD opened a food pantry at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago. Over the past year, the Jesse Brown location has served roughly 200 veterans each week. 

Paul Morello, GCFD public relations manager, says more than 18,000 veterans in Cook County live below the poverty line.

“This past summer, we released some data that showed that of the households that are receiving food from the Greater Chicago Food Depository, 18 percent include someone who is either currently serving or has served in the U.S. armed forces,” Morello said. 

“The need is pretty significant and we wanted to make sure that we were addressing that and expanding it and Hines was a natural expansion.”

The pantry will provide boxes of non-perishables such as macaroni, as well as packages of ground turkey, beans and bread. The pantry also provides fresh fruit such as apples and oranges as well as greens.

The food pantry is expected to serve approximately 150 veterans each week. Morello says that while the GCFD and AmeriCorps have dedicated volunteers helping towards the cause, the food pantries at both Hines and Jesse Brown can always use additional volunteer help from community members. 

“The best way to help is to go to our website, chicagofoodbank.org,” he said. “That is a way to connect to a lot of our veteran’s programs and we can get you connected if you’re interested in a volunteer opportunity.”

The Hines food pantry is open to assist all veterans and their immediate families. The pantry is located at 5000 S. 5th Ave. on the Hines grounds and is open on Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, veterans can contact Hines directly by calling 708-202-8387.