“Thank you for showing your daughter the power of her generosity.” -Christina, Lakeview Food Pantry

From looking at this unassuming facade, it is hard to know that miracles are happening just inside the door. My family visited the LakeView Pantry last week to drop off a donation and we are still in awe of all that is done in this small building to help those in need.

Writing a food blog is so enjoyable for me and I know I am fortunate to have the resources to do it. Sometimes, I feel a bit of hestitation about how much time is spent cooking, photographing, talking and sharing about our abundance of delicious foods when I know that so many people do not know where their next meal is coming from.

In the same way that I am drawn to the consumption of food and drink, I am drawn to food-related causes. Our family began donating to money to the Lakeview Pantry a few years ago. With two little kids, we have not been able to volunteer as I would have liked. This holiday, Mini Whipped is 3 1/2 and we decided that it was time to introduce her to charity and help her understand our good fortune.

The kind people at the Lakeview Pantry agreed to give us a tour when we dropped off our donation. My husband and I explained to Mini Whipped what a food pantry is and that we were going to give some of our money to them to help those that are less fortunate. We had Mini Whipped bring her purse with some of her money (piggy bank funds and birthday gifts) but we told her that she could decide if she wanted to give money to the pantry or not.

Inside the bustling pantry (it was a food pick up day), we all found more wonder than we ever could have imagined. We learned that the Lakeview food pantry gives away more than 1.8 million pounds of food a year! Volunteers were moving to and fro stacking food, cleaning and helping pantry customers.

What really touched me was how this organization is not just offering nourishment to those without food, they are offering a serving of dignity along with it. Bouquets of flowers laid on the counter along with the groceries. A room filled with non-food items was set up like a store – clothing and toys hanging neatly for easy browsing. Dog food is available so that people can keep their pets during their hard times. Baby care necessities were stacked up in the lower level.  There is even a special storage shelf designated for food items that don’t require any cooking equipment for those who have no access to simple kitchen tools like can openers.

At the end of our visit, we wrote a check and gave our donation. Though Mini Whipped was a typical 3-year old and somewhat antsy during part of our tour, something clearly sunk in. She opened her Hello Kitty wallet and produced a $20 bill that she handed over to our new friend June who works at the pantry.

It is nice when your parenting turns out the way you hoped! We have continued to talk about the Lakeview Pantry and Mini Whipped has explained to a few people what she learned. We were also invited to volunteer since children as young as 3 can help sort cans of food. In 2012, we will make it a point to continue to visit and lend a hand.

Our trip to the Lakeview Pantry was much more powerful than I anticipated. I am working on plans for the new year to forge partnerships with organizations that tackle food-related problems. And, I have decided that regularly exposing my children to things outside their circle of comfort is a priority.

If you are in the Chicago area and interested in helping the Lakeview Pantry, you can find information on their website here. If you would like to volunteer, contact Erin Stephens, Director of Volunteers (erin @ lakeviewpantry.org, 773.525.1777 x15). To donate money, you can make a secure transaction through our website or send a check payable to Lakeview Pantry. Additionally, they always accept non-perishable goods Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm.