Share Food Share Love Food Pantry, founded in 2015 and operated out of the basement of Faith Lutheran Church in Brookfield, saw steady growth in its clientele prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The food pantry, which is an agency of the Greater Chicago Food Depository, served roughly 150 people per month into the early days of 2020. That changed almost overnight in the wake of the pandemic.
“Within a couple of weeks we doubled our need,” said John Dumas, a member of the Faith Lutheran congregation who is administrative director of the food pantry, which now operates independently of the church.
At the pandemic’s height, some 300 people sought food from the pantry, which since March 2020 has provided pre-packaged bags of food to its clients twice a week – Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings – outside of the church.
The number of clients has reduced somewhat, but the food pantry still serves 250 from about 15 communities people weekly, and that has meant the food pantry needs more room, especially since they would like to resume letting clients choose their own food, inside the building.
“In January and February our board discussed moving things back inside, but if we did that we knew we wouldn’t have enough room,” Dumas said.
So Share Food Share Love Food Pantry enlisted the help of commercial real estate broker Dan Chopp to scout possible new locations for its operation, and settled on the industrial/office building at 9030 Brookfield Ave.
Located in the SA-6 zoning district, the building had been a non-conforming use in the district prior to action earlier this year by the Brookfield Village Board to allow the buildings in that stretch of Brookfield avenue to continue to be used for commercial purposes.
But, the village board also requires any new non-residential use to obtain a special use permit to operate in that fashion. Share Food Share Love will have their special use application considered at a public hearing before the Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission on Thursday, Sept. 23 at 7 p.m. at the Brookfield Village Hall, 8820 Brookfield Ave.
“We’re dedicated about being good neighbors,” said Dumas, who said the food pantry has not been a source of complaints at its present residential location. “We’ll do what we need to do to make it work.”
Dumas said the food pantry will lease about 5,000 square feet of the 7,000-square-foot building. The front office area will include a client waiting room with the pantry in the warehouse space behind it.
Eventually, said Dumas, Share Food Share Love plans to occupy the entire space. The nonprofit’s goal is to eventually purchase the building from the current owner, Main Holdings Inc., which purchased the property in 2009 for $300,000, according to Cook County property records.
The food pantry does not intend to use the alley, which abuts residential properties. All deliveries will be made on Brookfield Avenue, where there’s an overhead garage door to take in such deliveries, and the entrance for clients will also be on Brookfield Avenue, with plenty of parking spaces along the railroad tracks across the street.
“There’s more parking than you can imagine,” said Dumas.