Food pantry demand on the rise in Lake County and beyond

Volunteers, donors bring ‘hope and a smile’ with offerings meant to provide caring assistance

Sandra Wieting, of Grayslake, and Vic Ligenza put boxes of food in the back of a car for a patron Jan. 16 at the PLAN Food Pantry in Round Lake Beach.

ROUND LAKE BEACH – A steady demand for help has kept those involved with food pantries in Lake County and beyond busy this season.

For the People Lending Assistance Network, or PLAN, it’s always been about making a difference one person at a time. Since forming in 2006, the nonprofit steadily has helped more than 10,000 people a year.

Needs fluctuate, but the organization now provides services to more than 1,500 people a month through a drive-up food pantry and other resources offered at the organization’s Life Center at 1892 Nicole Lane in Round Lake Beach.

Serving northern Lake County, PLAN is one of many food pantries throughout the area – including those offered through the Northern Illinois Food Bank, townships, cities, villages and churches – helping a growing number of people in need.

So many variables contribute to the demand, said Pastor Michael Pimpo, who founded PLAN after receiving a donation of 12 pallets of food years ago through his church, Life of Faith Christian Church in Round Lake Beach.

“It’s not just the costs of goods and groceries and gas prices going up, you have on the other end the health concerns and people not knowing if they’ll be able to go to work,” Pimpo said.

He expects the need for services to increase in coming months as more families deal with the aftermath of sickness and utility bills rising as the weather turns colder. Aside from food donations, financial donations especially are needed, he said.

Relying on five to 10 volunteers at a time, PLAN not only provides food, baked goods and hygiene products through its drive-up pantry Monday through Friday, it provides resources to meet individual needs through its Life Center.

Families and individuals are given clothing, furniture and appliances, as well as access to classes, workshops and other events on topics such as life and job skills to help them overcome any challenges. It’s all about providing “hope and a smile,” Pimpo said.

“We try to be that voice and caring heart and say, ‘How can we help?’ We try to look at the family holistically and address the needs that are there with what they’re having to face,” Pimpo said. “If we don’t have it, we send them on to other organizations we’ve networked with for many years.

“We’re building dignity. We’re giving people hope. We’re making them understand they’re not fighting this battle alone. There are people that can help. We just want to be that encouragement to people to at least let them know things are going to work out eventually.”

Among its network, PLAN often refers people to 211 Lake County, a free one-stop shop for help offered through United Way of Lake County. The telephone helpline, text chatline and website at connect people in need to area resources.

PLAN also has networked with other area food pantries, such as Avon Care’s food pantry ( in Round Lake Park and Libertyville Township’s food pantry.

Like many, Grant Township’s food pantry in Ingleside has seen its demand pick up in recent weeks, Township Supervisor Kay Starostovic said.

“The cost of food is astronomical, and we’re here to serve,” she said. “We have a fantastic community.”

“Grant Township may not be the richest township, but it’s really the most giving township,” she said.

The Wauconda-Island Lake Food Pantry ( also is seeing more people come in since the start of the pandemic. Offering drive-up services during the pandemic, the pantry at 505 W. Bonner Road in Wauconda once again is open for those in need to come in and “shop” for what they need at various times a day six days a week.

Those involved with area pantries all credit the volunteers and donors for their efforts to provide as much help as needed.

Among donors, Laskowski’s nine Ace Hardware branches in Round Lake, Gurnee, Libertyville, Mundelein, Wauconda, Grayslake, Waukegan, Antioch and McHenry donates annually through an employee food drive and cash donations, said Darius Pfeifer, store manager of the Ace Hardware in Round Lake.

Pfeifer recently presented a $250 donation, as well as boxes of food, to PLAN.

“In Round Lake for over 60 years, we just feel like it’s important to give back to the community,” Pfeifer said.