Pilsen Food Pantry test out a pilot shuttle bus to serve 25th Ward residents on the Near West Side. Credit: Provided

PILSEN — A Pilsen food pantry has added a free shuttle to help more residents on the Near West Side access the pantry during the coronavirus pandemic.

With the help from Reggies and Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th), the Figueroa Wu Family Foundation launched a free shuttle service to make it easier for residents of ABLA Homes, Roosevelt Square and Barbara Jean Wright Court get to the Pilsen Food Pantry, 1850 S. Throop Ave.

The pilot shuttle bus service runs Mondays and Thursdays through February, said foundation Director Evelyn Figueroa.

The effort aims to make it easier to get to the pantry for residents in the northern part of the 25th Ward who face food insecurity, Dr. Figueroa said. 

“We try our best … to be as nimble as we can be. With any expansion, we try to be as community centered as possible,” Figueroa said.

The foundation has applied for grant funding in hopes of making the shuttle permanent. In the meantime, Reggies, a restaurant and music venue at 2105 S. State St., donated the driver, shuttle bus and gasoline to make the pantry’s initiative possible.

Reggies owner Robby Glick said making the choice to help was a “no-brainer.”

“We like to help out when it comes to anything the community,” Glick said.

Even as music venues and restaurants are struggling due to coronavirus, Glick said they wanted to make use of the shuttle bus to help Figueroa’s efforts.

“This is a good cause,” he said. 

RELATED: How A Pilsen Food Pantry Grew To Help Neighbors In Crisis: ‘The Community Has Come Together To Make This Happen’

Reggies has donated a driver and shuttle bus to the Figueroa Wu Family Foundation to help with free shuttle service twice a week to the Pilsen Food Pantry.

Last summer, Figueroa Wu Family Foundation’s Pilsen Food Pantry conducted a mobile food distribution that provided 255 families with thousands of pounds of food, Figueroa said.

But that was logistically challenging, Figueroa said.

After researching northern portions of the area, Figueroa found 1,079 low-income units between Roosevelt, 15th Street, Loomis and Morgan. People living in them struggled to get to the pantry because they lacked access to transportation and faced physical barriers, like viaducts, Figueroa said.

“They are isolated,” Figueroa said. 

While the area has been home to low-income units for decades, there hasn’t been an established food pantry to serve them, Figueroa said.

As part of the pilot, the free shuttle picks up and drops off residents. Pick-up locations and times are:

  • Barbara Jean Wright Court, 1030 W. 14th St.: 11-11:10 a.m. and 2-2:10 p.m.
  • Roosevelt Square, 1336 W. Roosevelt Road: 11:15-11:25 a.m. and 2:15- 2:25 p.m.
  • Collins Apartments, 1401 S. Blue Island Ave.: 11:30-11:45 a.m. and 2:30- 2:40 p.m.
  • Loomis Courts Playground, 1314 W. 15th St.: 12:30-12:40 p.m. and 3:30- 3:40 p.m.
  • ABLA Brooks, 1301 W. Hastings St.:12:45-12:55 p.m. and 3:45-3:55 p.m.
  • ABLA Brooks, 1329 W. Washburne Ave.: 1-1:10 p.m. and 4-4:10 p.m.

Figueroa hopes the shuttle will help families in need and open the door to the services offered at the Pilsen Food Pantry, including the Clothes Closet, the Little Library, social workers and dietitian interns. 

“Once we know how utilized the bus is, we will use this information to find funding for a permanent shuttle bus or establish a satellite pantry” on the Near West Side, Figueroa said.

Reggies has donated a driver and shuttle bus to the Figueroa Wu Family Foundation to help with free shuttle service twice a week to the Pilsen Food Pantry.

Figueroa said the shuttle is critical in helping a community that has long been underserved.

“There’s a historical significance of structural violence against this community and preservation of generational poverty that we are hoping to address more directly,” Figueroa said.

“This community that has been isolated by design, and we want to make them feel like part of Ward 25 because really they are. We’re their pantry and we want to support them,” she said.

And to better serve the community, the pantry has expanded its hours, Figueroa said.

New pantry hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays and 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.

Already subscribe? Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation.

Pilsen, Little Village and West Loop reporterrnrnmauricio@blockclubchi.orgnnPilsen, Little Village and West Loop reporterrnrnmauricio@blockclubchi.org Twitter @MauricioPena