Colt Seidman first went to Lakeview Pantry two years ago after struggling to get by on his own. And while he appreciated the pantry supplying him with nutritious food, having to wait in line for hours would often disrupt his work schedule.
So Seidman was thrilled when he learned about Lakeview’s new online market that would allow him to choose his groceries on his phone, schedule a convenient pickup time and avoid waiting in line.
“When I learned that Lakeview Pantry was opening a new online market, I knew it was something that would work well for me, allowing me more time to focus on work,” he said. “It just makes everything that much easier.”
Lakeview Pantry on Chicago’s North Side officially launched an online market Thursday as the agency opened its new distribution center. The online market is the first of its kind in Chicago, and it allows low-income residents to order their groceries from a mobile device or computer and pick them up from the new warehouse, 5151 N. Ravenswood Ave., in the Ravenswood neighborhood.
“We know our busy, hardworking residents don’t always have time to wait in traditional food pantry lines, and the online market is one way we’re addressing that,” Kellie O’Connell, Lakeview Pantry’s CEO, said as the new facility opened Thursday.
Every year, the pantry serves more than 1 million meals to roughly 9,000 households, O’Connell said. And the new online market and 10,000-square-foot facility will help the pantry address the evolving needs of their community.
“Unfortunately … we’re barely scratching the surface of meeting the demand for those who don’t know where their next meal will come from,” she said.
In the news conference, O’Connell read a testimonial from Areli Vazquez, a Lakeview Pantry client, who told staff that not having to bring her children to the pantry while she waits in line for food will make life easier for her.
“Knowing that I’m only stepping out for a minute to pick up my food and not having to wait at the pantry for hours helps bring peace of mind,” O’Connell quoted Vazquez as saying.
Understanding the difficulty some clients have traveling to the pantry and waiting in long lines prompted Lakeview to start the online market, O’Connell said.
“That’s what really drove us,” O’Connell said in reaction to Vazquez’s comments. “How do we make it easier for people who already are struggling — working low-wage jobs, raising a couple of kids, trying to get them to school, trying to get groceries on their table — get food into their homes?”
The new distribution center was funded primarily through a $500,000 state capital grant. The Thierer Family Foundation, a Chicago-based foundation focused on helping nonprofits be more effective using technology, provided the funding and technology to help launch the online market.
The online market is optional, and clients can still pick out their food in person.