U.S. Senator Dick Durbin Visits Aurora Food Pantry Announces $700,000 Grant

April 13, 2023

A $700,000 federal grant will allow the Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry to bring hot, nourishing meals to people who need them. U.S. Senator Dick Durbin secured the funding and came to the Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry the first week of April to make the announcement. “This grant will allow us to bring food to the people,” said Shannon Cameron, Executive Director of the Aurora Food Pantry. The program will be called Mobile Meals and will include the buildout of a commercial kitchen to prepare hot meals. That food will be put on a food truck that will go into area neighborhoods aimed at reaching the most underserved and vulnerable in our community.

Cameron, who has been the Executive Director of  the pantry since March 2021, said, “Through conversations with our neighbors, we discovered many elderly in our community don’t have full working kitchens. They were asking us how to cook items they would receive from the pantry. The most vulnerable need to be taken care of,” said Cameron. “In the neighborhoods, we come to them.” Right now, statistics show more than 1 million Illinois residents are food insecure. According to Feeding America, there are more than 62,000 food-insecure residents in DuPage County and 38,000 in Kane County. The pantry staff, with the help of hundreds of volunteers, feeds about 1,000 families a week.

“We live in the richest nation in the world, yet over 35 million Americans are still experiencing food insecurity,” said Senator Dick Durbin. “While Congress works to address this public health crisis, residents continuously rely on organizations like Aurora Food Pantry. This federal funding will allow them to expand their critical services to even more Illinoisans. I’ll keep working in Washington to ensure no family has to wonder where their next meal will come from.”

Cameron hopes to partner with various other agencies that are serving the most vulnerable across DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Will and DeKalb counties. “These partnerships will allow us to reach populations that have traditionally been underserved. We plan to create a calendar of where the Mobile Meals truck will travel so people can depend on the service on a weekly basis,” she said. The hope is that the partnerships will bring in new resources for regular pantry neighbors. Cameron added, “As a community partner, we know we can’t solve hunger alone. It takes a community to take care of the community. Together is the only way we can help our community thrive.”

The grant will give the pantry the ability to add a commercial kitchen. The kitchen will not only provide warm, nutritious meals; it will also allow the staff to create meal prep bags to have on the shelves of the pantry. These bags will have all the ingredients needed to cook a well-balanced meal for families, along with full instructions. Cameron said, “So many of those we serve are one-parent households with sometimes multiple jobs or intergenerational caretaking responsibilities; if we can lighten that load and help people prepare food for their families, we want to do that.” The Mobile Meals program will launch in 2024. It is the first time in its 42-year history that the pantry has received a federal earmark.