It’s been about seven years since the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry expanded its coverage area to include 13 zip codes to include a wide range of Chicago neighborhoods and suburbs.
Now the organization has rebranded to reflect the breadth of communities it serves.
Michele Zurakowski, executive director of the food pantry, said in a telephone interview that the organization will now be known as Beyond Hunger.
The rebranding aims to “be more inclusive of the communities we serve,” she said.
Though the old name suggests the pantry serves Oak Park and River Forest exclusively, the organization serves residents of the following zip codes and communities: Oak Park (60301, 60302, 60304); River Forest (60305); Forest Park (60130); Berwyn and Stickney (60402); Franklin Park, Schiller Park (60131); Hines (60141); River Grove (60171); Schiller Park (60176); Chicago (60644, 60651); and Elmwood Park, Galewood (60707 ).
“Sixty-five percent of the people we serve are in Chicago,” Zurakowski said, noting that about 15 percent are in Oak Park and River Forest.
She said that in 2018, the food pantry distributed about a million pounds of food and served about 500 residents through its home delivery program.
Zurakowski said the pantry works with the Greater Chicago Food Depository and other food pantries in the region to ensure that residents have access to at least two food pantries.
The 40-year-old organization was hamstrung in the early 2000s, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which then provided some of the food the pantry distributed, required that pantries that received their donations not have physical boundaries.
Zurakowski said that meant less food for those who sought assistance. The organization worked with the Greater Chicago Food Depository to figure out where there were overlapping services and developed the service areas in 2008.