Most pantries in La Salle, Bureau counties will resume client’s choice

Phase 5 brings about fewer guidelines

The Illinois Valley Food Pantry was never closed. Clients simply couldn’t go in. That changes Monday.

Mary Jo Credi, executive director of the food pantry in La Salle, announced that phase 5 rules means that clients in need of food assistance will be able to go inside the facility on Wright Street and help themselves – as well as enjoy the enhanced décor.

“It will be great for our clients to see the refreshing facelift the pantry got from Hope Week,” Credi said.

Credi cautioned the pantry will ease into pre-pandemic operations and that everyone will follow COVID-19 guidelines for phase 5. These include a limited headcount – no more than two clients and no children – and all must continue socially distance. Masks are required for those not vaccinated. Photo ID and proof of residence are required.

In Ottawa, Community Food Basket will be opening back up for client choice shopping starting Monday, July 5, and discontinuing drive-through distribution – but that doesn’t mean they aren’t playing it safe.

“We are going to be taking the utmost caution,” said Marissa Vicich, executive director, “and to that end, all clients, staff and volunteers will be masked regardless of vaccinations.”

The Bureau County Food Pantry is having a “grand reopening” on June 16 and will even give away prizes to celebrate the occasion. They aren’t simply throwing open the doors, however. Clients must wear masks, use hand sanitizer and answer a brief survey. Pantry workers will use a call-in system to space out clients as they walk in.

Other food pantries are contemplating how to expand access during phase 5 but had not, as of Friday, made any announcements.

Jan Martin, executive director of the Hall Township Food Pantry, said the board will meet June 15 to discuss relaxed COVID guidelines though she was unsure much would change in the near term.

Martin said an informal survey of clients showed most prefer the curbside pickup implemented during the pandemic, rather than the “client’s choice” model where people can help themselves. The novel coronavirus might be waning but curbside service might be here to stay.

Then there’s the question of vaccinations. Martin’s help is largely comprised of retirees who are at elevated risk of infection and thus have been immunized. Making the shot available to clients, who don’t always have ground transport, remains a work in progress.

Similarly, the Western Bureau County Food Pantry meets in late June to discuss phase 5 rules. Clients were asked to listen for announcements as Independence Day approaches.

The Streatorland Food Pantry recently expanded its hours to reach more clients, including adding Wednesday hours. The food pantry is open 5 to 6:30 p.m. on Wednesdays now. They have not made an announcement yet regarding Phase 5 changes to shop for food items.

Tom Collins

Tom Collins covers criminal justice in La Salle County.