New Book Tells Stories from Local Food Pantry

A new book on the pressing contemporary issue of food insecurity in American cities, I Am Your Neighbor: Voices from a Chicago Food Pantry, has been published by CreateSpace Independent Publishers. The text, as reviewed in today’s Chicago Sun-Times,  chronicles the real life stories of 21 Common Pantry clients told in their own words. As the book’s news release describes it:

I am your Neighbor book coverEach chapter is touching and entertaining while also shedding light on the various paths that lead to food insecurity and the social interactions that develop for surviving.  Readers will be challenged to see the implications for public policy and non-profit organizational management to better serve our communities.

The two-year long project is just one of many efforts to raise awareness about the importance of neighborhood-based pantries and the needs they serve.  100% of the proceeds from book sales will go to Common Pantry, Chicago’s oldest continually operating food pantry.

The book was inspired by the lives of those people who come to the Common Pantry for emergency food as well as a sense of community.  However, the book was also inspired by neighbors who do not have a complete understanding of who these people are and the circumstances that combine to bring them to the doors of the Common Pantry.

“It is surprising to some in our well-to-do neighborhood on the North Side of Chicago, that there are pockets of distress with many people who don’t know how they will feed their families tonight.  The Common Pantry is there to help and we wanted to share the unique stories of the real people who are part of our community,” says Common Pantry board member and I Am Your Neighbor co-author David R. Brown.

“Inspired by the great Studs Terkel, what we did was turn on the tape recorder and listen. And just like Studs showed time and again, the stories of ordinary people are the ones that come to mean the most,” said co-author Roger Wright, author of the Chicago Guy blog at the Our Salon website.

Kate Maehr, executive director and CEO of the Greater Chicago Food Depository, notes, “Nearly 1 in 6 people in Cook County is unsure of where or when they will receive their next meal. The volume of food insecurity in our community remains staggering. The authors of I am Your Neighbor bring to life the root causes of hunger and economic distress in a way that statistics cannot.”

I Am Your Neighbor can be purchased now at, on, and at locally-owned independent bookstores.
Bulk orders are available for student/classroom use (call 312-543-6782 for more info). Also see the “I am Your Neighbor” Video on YouTube.

About Common Pantry

The Common Pantry, located at 3744 N. Damen Ave, is Chicago’s longest continually running food pantry. The locally-operated pantry provides groceries to more than 1200 neighbors in need each month. More than 500 new clients came to the pantry in 2011 and more than 33% of the pantry’s clients are under the age of 18 and 10% are senior citizens. The pantry is a member agency of the Greater Chicago Food Depository and provides emergency food supplies to north side residents in need.

Excerpts from I Am Your Neighbor: Voices from a Chicago Food Pantry

  • “I’ve been working all my life. I’ve never been without a job. I really didn’t want anyone to give me anything. That had never happened before. I’ve always worked for everything I had.  Then you lose your job and there’s no money. Wife gets cancer. So maybe I’ll try coming to the Common Pantry. Just once.”
  • “My goals? In a year I want my own place and a steady job. That’s it. Just enough to be able to live. That’s all I want. To be able to go to the movies every now and then.”
  • “Life was kinda good until I hit about seven. Then my father got shot and passed. When I turned 11 my mom passed. I found her dead in bed. That’s when things really started to go bad.”
  • “I got tears in my eyes right now. I’ve probably talked about this a handful of times. No one’s ever asked me to tell my story before. So it’s a blessing to talk.”
  • “I’ve done factory, clean up, construction. If it’s work, I’ve done it. Along the way, sure there were hard times. Everybody has had hard times. That’s why the Common Pantry helps.”

Also see this review of I Am Your Neighbor in the 6 December 2012 edition of the Chicago Sun-Times.

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