Five days before Veterans Day, a new food pantry at the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital opened its doors for the first time with the hopes of serving thousands of area veterans in need.

The food pantry, which opened on Nov. 6, will operate as a collaborative effort between Hines, the Greater Chicago Food Depository and AmeriCorps. 

While the Greater Chicago Food Depository will be supplying the food for the pantry, volunteers from both Hines and the Greater Chicago Food Depository will help staff the operation with members from AmeriCorps helping manage weekly food pantry operations.

The opening of the Hines food pantry means that the Chicagoland area now has two food pantries operating solely for veterans and their families. Last year on Veterans Day, the Greater Chicago Food Depository opened a food pantry at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago. During the past year, Jesse Brown’s location has served roughly 200 veterans each week. 

Paul Morello, public relations manager for the Greater Chicago Food Depository, says that the opening of the food pantry at Hines will further help in the effort to assist the more than 18,000 veterans in Cook County who live below the poverty line.

“This past summer, we released some data that showed that of the households that are receiving food from the Greater Chicago Food Depository, 18 percent of those households include someone who is either currently serving or has served in the U.S. Armed Forces,” Morello said. “The need is pretty significant and we wanted to make sure that we were addressing that and expanding it and Hines was a natural expansion.”

The Hines food pantry is expected to serve approximately 150 veterans each week. Morello says that while the Greater Chicago Food Depository and AmeriCorps have dedicated volunteers helping towards the cause, the food pantries at both Hines and Jesse Brown can always use additional assistance from community members. 

“The best way to help is to go to our website, chicagofoodbank.org,” he said. “That is a way to connect to a lot of our veterans’ programs, and we can get you connected if you’re interested in a volunteer opportunity.”

The Hines food pantry is open to assist all veterans and their immediate families. The Hines food pantry is located at 5000 S. 5th Ave. in Hines and is open on Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

For more information, veterans can contact Hines directly by calling 708-202-8387.