Woodridge– West Suburban Community Pantry will celebrate the creativity and comfort of food at the first ever virtual Chef’s Culinary Celebration on Saturday evening, September 26. Guests at the fundraiser will enjoy complete chef-prepared dinners at home while viewing a virtual fundraising event including cocktail music, silent auction and inspiring stories of overcoming hunger. Notable chefs from across the region are offering a variety of special menus for the event.  Proceeds support the West Suburban Community Pantry’s mission to create a community without hunger.

The West Suburban Community Pantry is headquartered in Woodridge, and serves people living in areas higher-than-average poverty, including areas of Bolingbrook, Lisle, Naperville, Downers Grove, Darien, Willowbrook, Westmont and Romeoville.   The group recently opened its first In-school Pantry at Irene King Elementary School in Romeoville, provides food to residential clients Bridge Communities and DuPage PADs and offers home deliveries to seniors as well as providing meal support to school students year-round.

“With COVID, demand for our services has tripled. Between job loss and furloughs, families are struggling to keep their homes and cover their expenses.  Alleviating the pressure to pay for food can make a big difference in that fight,” says Pantry Executive Director Laura Coyle.

The Pantry, which normally offers a grocery-store-style shopping experience for clients, is in the midst of an expansion of their service space to accommodate greater capacity for food donation and storage, larger private client intake offices, an on-line ordering department, drive-up pick up and expanded program and office space.

“We must meet people where they are, and technology is helping us do that,” says Coyle.  “Along with increased client demand, as schools move to remote learning, getting food to students will fall more heavily on us.  Our ability to have families order their choice of foods on through our online system and use our touchless drive up, pick up system becomes even more critical.  Utilizing this technology will allow us to more than double our capacity, allowing us to serve between five and seven thousand more individuals in the coming years,” says Coyle.

The Chefs Culinary Celebration will allow the pantry to maintain a healthy mix of groceries and supplies despite the increased demand.  In addition to shelf staples, fresh produce, eggs, milk, meat and fish, the pantry offers a selection of household cleaning supplies and personal care items and provides birthday party supplies to families with children. Assistance is also provided in applying for SNAP and LIHEAP benefits. The Ann & Victor Pokorny Memorial Fund and Marquette Companies/Century 21 Affiliated Ryan Hill Group are lead sponsors of the Chef’s Culinary Celebration. Reservations for sponsors party meals and individual meals must be made prior to September 18.   For tickets,  sponsorship and information on the Chef’s Culinary Celebration and West Suburban Community Pantry, visit https://wscpantry.org/chefs-culinary-challenge or call 630-948-8132.