Food Hero: Kellie O’Connell

Food Hero: Kellie O’Connell

Lakeview Pantry

When the stay-at-home order went into effect, Lakeview Pantry realized its services would be needed more than ever, but food and social services would have to be delivered in new, socially distanced ways.

Thanks to creative thinking, online technology, and the Chicago Cubs, Lakeview Pantry was able to provide food to a population of clients that swelled to 400% its regular size.

Lakeview Pantry, with three sites on Chicago’s North Side and West Side, annually provides 2.3 million free meals, as well as social services and mental health counseling to approximately 13,500 seniors, adults with disabilities, and low-income families.

Kellie O'Connell quoteBut as the coronavirus pandemic caused massive layoffs, requests for food assistance quadrupled. Adding to the strain on the organization, grocery stores ran low on staples, food donations dwindled, and older pantry volunteers stayed home.

Enter the Chicago Cubs, who offered the Wrigley Field concourse as a food packing and distribution site in spring, enabling volunteers and clients to spread out and maintain physical distancing. A call for more volunteers resulted in 2,000 people stepping forward. Hotels and restaurants donated unused food, and donations from individuals and food manufacturers poured in.

To reduce face-to-face contact, Lakeview Pantry streamlined its intake process and encouraged clients to order ahead using an online system that had been recently rolled out, says Kellie O’Connell, Lakeview Pantry’s CEO.

Lakeview Pantry’s can-do attitude hasn’t dimmed in the face of the coronavirus, O’Connell says. “We knew this is exactly who we are, and this is exactly the mission we were called to do.”


Originally published in the Fall 2020/Winter 2021 print issue. Photo by Jim Vondruska

2 Comments

  • Reply Food Insecurity Reaches New Highs, Local Organizations Expand Efforts November 24, 2020 at 6:36 pm

    […] Lakeview Pantry, which has been in service for 50 years, added a new warehouse facility to pack and ship food to distribution sites due to the increase in food insecurity across the Chicago area. Food pantries typically have service area boundaries, but Lakeview Pantry has expanded its reach because of the pandemic. […]

  • Reply Food Insecurity Reaches New Highs, Local Organizations Expand Efforts – Ratanak Kiri November 24, 2020 at 6:58 pm

    […] Lakeview Pantry, which has been in service for 50 years, added a brand new warehouse facility to pack and ship meals to distribution websites because of the enhance in meals insecurity throughout the Chicago space. Meals pantries usually have service space boundaries, however Lakeview Pantry has expanded its attain due to the pandemic. […]

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