Check your door knocker for a green tag from the Girl Scouts because their annual Food Drive takes place on Saturday, Oct. 27. Scouts will be hanging more than 20,000 fliers to let residents of Forest Park, Oak Park and River Forest know about the drive, the largest of the year.
Residents are encouraged to leave their donations in bags outside their doors by 9 a.m. that Saturday and mark them "Food Pantry." They will be collected by about 500 local scouts, who will travel door-to-door picking up the food and toiletries.
Especially needed are: canned meat, peanut butter, tuna, vegetables, soup, pasta, cereal as well as diapers, laundry soap, shaving cream, shampoo, toothpaste and hand/body lotion, according to the Girl Scouts.
"The food pantries really love the Girl Scout food drive because they get such a huge variety of stuff," said Food Drive Coordinator Lisa Files.
The Oak Park-River Forest Food Pantry made the "painful decision" this year to shrink its service boundaries from 28 zip codes to 12, according to a press release. Even so, 1,300 families continue to use the pantry.
Also, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture has more than halved the amount of standard staples: plain rice, vegetables and soup. The Oak Park pantry used to receive 9,000-12,000 pounds of food per month, but it's now down to about 4,500 from the USDA.
In 2011, the Scouts collected 26,000 pounds of food for the Oak Park pantry, plus $600.
"Last year they collected more money than the past," said Files. I think the word is out that they can really stretch a dollar at the pantry."
Any tax-deductible donation the Forest Park Food Pantry receives is deposited in a checking account and used for holiday meals at the Howard Mohr Community Center, Director Karen Dylewski said.
"Every food drive helps as we see more people now than we ever did in the past," she sai.d "Shauer's Hardware keeps a box for food donations, so does Ed's Way grocery store year-round."
"Also Blue Max Caf just put in some boxes to collect food. Several apartment buildings around town put food in their lobby for us to pick up. Every food drive helps. The pantry gets most of its donations in-kind," Dylewsky said. They are gearing up for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, when they will give out $6,000-$7,000 worth of food to needy families.
For residents of Forest Park, make checks payable to the Forest Park Food Pantry, 7640 Jackson Blvd., Forest Park, IL 60130.