Chicago nonprofit says more families need help putting food on the table this Thanksgiving

This has been a busy week, and a busy year, at Chicago area food banks, as many organizations see demand top even the worst days of the pandemic.

On Wednesday morning, the line was long outside El Mercadito in Humboldt Park before the doors opened.

In English and Spanish, Omar Roman gave instructions to the crowd that's grown since he started at this food bank last year.

"We were serving about 20 families a day, now we're averaging about 150 to 160 families every day. Sometimes it's tough to have ends meet so just having us here at El Mercadito helping them to put food on the table, it's amazing. It's amazing to put a smile on their face too," Roman said.

The need is heightened this week as people get Thanksgiving turkeys and ham along with regular supplies. Nourishing Hope runs the food pantry inside El Casa Norte.  At all of their food distribution sites, visits are up 42 percent compared to last year.


"The need is skyrocketing again, at the height of the pandemic, as you know, we saw a huge increase, and now we're seeing clients at higher numbers than our peak pandemic time," said Kellie O'Connell, CEO Nourishing Hope.

Around Chicago, more families with children are needing help. The city's food equity policy lead says this disproportionately affects communities of color.

And you can probably guess what's really pinching those budgets.

"Yeah, inflation. We probably have all noticed this when we've gone to the grocery store, and unfortunately for some families who are already on tight budgets that's making a stronger impact. Thankfully, there are awesome places like this where you can come and get food to support you" said Ruby Ferguson, Food Equity Policy Lead, City of Chicago.

That inflation doesn’t just hurt all of us buying groceries. The groups stocking these shelves at food banks are paying a lot more too.

"At Nourishing Hope, we need more money to buy more turkeys, buy more food. Our turkey cost is more than double than it was last year," said O'Connell.

So, this year, helping all these people means even the helpers could use a hand.

"Absolutely, we rely on volunteers and donors to keep our doors open at a time when families need us the most," said Jose Munoz, Executive Director La Casa Norte.