Observing Hunger Action Month

Sep 22, 2020

Shopping carts are normally used to carry food and other store items, but one Aurora food pantry pushed its carts in a different direction for Hunger Action Month and another is highlighting local restaurants.

Becky Dunnigan is the community outreach and program coordinator at the Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry. She said the pantry came up with an unique idea: Carts for a Cause.   

“So, we thought, ‘You know, how they... some towns will paint cows or panthers, things like that,’” she said. “We thought it might be fun for artists to paint shopping carts.”

Dunnigan admitted that this didn’t start out as a contest but they decided it would be more fun to have one. She said the cart that has the most Facebook likes and hearts will take the top spot.

Carts are being placed inside and outside of some Aurora businesses throughout this month. Gasek said the shopping cart winner will be announced early October.

Maureen Gasek is a marketing volunteer at the Marie Wilkinson Food Pantry. She said local restaurants stepped up during this pandemic and the pantry wanted to give back to them.

“They were donating a certain percentage of their monthly sales to us -- to help feed our community,” Gasek said. “They were bringing lunches in, I mean, they were taking donations, they were helping, they were collecting food, et cetera.” 

Gasek said the pantry received a grant from Aurora Township that allowed them to partner with VNA Health Care to help with Marie’s Kitchen Cooking Series. It taught seniors and individuals with disabilities how to eat healthier. Gasek said the pantry wanted to keep the series alive and this month they did so by showcasing some restaurants in what's called "Where's Marie's Kitchen." This program highlights local eating establishments by having in-house virtual cooking demonstrations that are streamed on the internet. She shared that they are working on an initiative for next month. 

Gasek also said about 30 restaurants are continuing to make donations this month. Each of them is doing something different. 

"Some have a special menu. So, if you order from that menu, Marie Wilkinson Pantry, you know -- specialty Hunger Action Month menu-- they give a certain percentage of the proceeds," she shared. "Some people are donating proceeds from T-shirt sales. We have a diaper and feminine product drive. So, it's this plethora of people just coming together saying, 'Hey, we would like to do this.' " 

Aurora Downtown is partnering in the "Carts for a Cause" initiative. VizoArts helped put the word out to local artists for the carts and donated their photography and film making skills to the Marie Wilkinson Pantry.    

Dunnigan and Gasek shared that since the pandemic, the demand for food at their pantry has quadrupled. Dunnigan is urging people to get involved by donating or even sharing Facebook posts. 

  • Yvonne Boose is a 2020 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.