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Lincoln Square, North Center, Irving Park

Lincoln Square Food Pantry Has More Fresh Produce After $200,000 Renovation, New Walk-In Cooler

The upgrades allow the food pantry to offer a larger selection of fresh produce and dairy items and assist more Northwest Side neighbors.

The renovations at The Friendship Center, 2711 W. Lawrence Ave., include a new mural by Artist Benjamn Marasco and allows the food pantry to carry more fresh produce.
Alex V. Hernandez/Block Club Chicago
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LINCOLN SQUARE — The Friendship Center has finished a six-figure upgrade that lets the organization serve more neighbors.

The food pantry at 2711 W. Lawrence Ave. added a walk-in cooler and a grocery store area. The cooler was donated by the Greater Chicago Food Depository, and the renovations to the space were supported by a $200,000 grant from NorthShore University Health System

The organization, founded in 1969, serves residents of Albany Park, Lincoln Square, North Park, Ravenswood and West Ridge. 

Credit: Alex V. Hernandez/Block Club Chicago
The Friendship Center Executive Director Justin Block outside the food pantry’s new walk-in cooler on Aug. 30, 2022.

The cooler allows the pantry to store larger quantities of donated sandwiches from businesses such as Starbucks alongside dairy and fresh produce from local grocery stores and urban farms like the Montrose Metra Community Gardens, Executive Director Justin Block said. 

“This really allows us to amplify our impact by having and distributing more nutritious food,” Block said. 

Construction to upgrade the pantry’s on-site storage and client area wrapped in June. 

The grocery area is stocked with fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy, protein products and shelf-stable food placed on racks to allow clients to pick what they need, Block said.

Artist Ben Marasco painted a vibrant mural for the pantry. He came to the food pantry’s attention because of the mural he painted on the Honore Storage building, 3215. W. Lawrence Ave., Block said. 

“We wanted to kind of bring that Albany Park community vibe into our bright, warm, inviting and welcoming space,” Block said. 

Credit: Alex V. Hernandez/Block Club Chicago
The new grocery store area at The Friendship Center on Aug. 30, 2022.

Demand at the food pantry spiked during the pandemic and has continued to stay high because of inflation driving up costs for food staples and other essentials.  

Canned soups, prepared meals and shelf-stable proteins such as peanut butter are items the food pantry can’t get enough of, Block said. 

“And diapers are always in need. We can’t ever seem to keep enough diapers of all sizes in stock,” Block said. 

More information about how to donate food and volunteer at The Friendship Center is on its website.

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