Now Serving Bolingbrook and Romeoville

West Suburban Community Pantry is expanding their service territory to include Bolingbrook and Romeoville effective immediately. The addition comes as the result of a series of strategic moves the pantry will make to enhance their impact in the community over the next several years.

The Pantry, which has historically only served DuPage County residents, serves approximately 36,000 households annually. The move into these two areas is expected to increase the number of families they serve by approximately 10%.

Laura Coyle, Executive Director of the West Suburban Community Pantry said, “We are overjoyed to be able to open our doors to the residents of the cities of Romeoville and Bolingbrook. We are committed to doing everything we can to help as many of our neighbors in need as possible.”

An estimated 9.1% of Bolingbrook and 8.4% of Romeoville residents live in poverty according to the 2015 U.S. census data on population and poverty.

“Food pantry services will be a blessing to our patients.” said Dr. Sue Davis, FPN who runs the Bolingbrook Christian Health Center. Upon hearing that the pantry was going to begin serving Bolingbrook, the health center jumped on board to help promote the service to their clients. Food insecurity has been directly linked to a variety of health issues including diabetes and heart disease.

For more information, please contact Laura Coyle, Executive Director of the West Suburban Community Pantry at or 630-948-8131.

Pierce Downer Food Drive

Students from Pierce Downer Elementary School in Downers Grove took a hands-on approach to combatting hunger in our community by organizing a school-wide food and holiday toy drive followed by a group visit to the West Suburban Community Pantry (WSCP) in Woodridge. The mission of the committee is to inspire and prepare students to connect with individuals and families in need around our community by providing monthly service opportunities.

Pierce Downer’s Student Council partnered with the Service Learning Committee to put the event together. During the visit, they learned what the pantry does and back at school shared this information with volunteer class representatives. The representatives spoke to classrooms about the services provided by the food pantry, promoted the weeklong food and toy drive, and invited students to participate in a tour and help out at the food pantry.

WSCP provides food to residents of DuPage County, with a special concentration on seven surrounding communities including those that have a higher-than-average poverty rate: Darien, Downers Grove, Lisle, Naperville, Westmont, Willowbrook and Woodridge. The organization’s mission is, “Offer food to the hungry and provide resources to empower persons to improve the quality of their life. Our vision is a community without hunger.”

Students and their families responded generously to the food and toy drive by donating more than 120 pounds of food and 30 bags of toys. The food collected equates to approximately 100 meals and the toys spread holiday cheer to some of the children who receive food from WSCP.

On a bitter cold afternoon, several dozen elementary students and parents gathered in Woodridge to tour the food pantry and learn about the people who are helped there. In a room lined with shelves of dry goods and a refrigerated section of perishables, WSCP Executive Director Laura Traut-Coyle explained that the pantry serves more than 36,000 individuals, including more than 14,000 children and 5,000 seniors living throughout DuPage County. Traut-Coyle helped the kids relate to the hunger of the 14,000 kids served by WSCP. She asked them to remember a time when they were hungry and cranky after school and imagine if there hadn’t been any food at home they could eat and what that might be like. Soon the group got to work pulling donated toys out of boxes and bags and sorting them by age and type. Even the youngest kids approached the task with purpose, eager to help the children they had just learned about. In describing the effect the overall experience had on him, Rajan Fisher, Student Council Vice President, said, “I learned a lot from the tour. It makes me feel good to help families in our community.”

WSCP welcomes volunteers to help with food sorting, stocking pantry shelves, client services, food distribution, repacking, cleaning the pantry, and more. If you would like to schedule an individual or group volunteer activity, please contact Denice at

ABC7 News: Woodridge Pantry Served Thousands

The Pantry was recently highlighted on ABC7 Chicago News. Click below to see the video (video starts after a brief ad).

In 2016, 36,000 people were served by the West Suburban Community Pantry, of that number, 14,000 were children. The pantry has a community partnership with the Northern Illinois Food Bank and that partnership is helping make sure no family goes without.

Shelves are fully stocked and volunteers are ready to go as the West Suburban Community Pantry prepares to open its doors. “The typical food order that we give is between 125 lbs. ad 135 lbs. of food. It’s a substantial amount and they can come twice a month for that amount of food,” said Laura Coyle, executive director of West Suburban Community Pantry.

The pantry works on what they call the “client choice” model. It helps ensure nothing goes to waste. “We have just evolved over time to allow them to choose what they want. In many, many cases the people coming to the pantry and using some of our services will select to give back what they don’t need because they want to be able to give it to another family who needs it,” Coyle said.

Volunteers like Art Sheridan said it’s the need of the community that makes him want to give back. “You understand the people and people need to eat regardless of race, ethnicity or their religion. Everyone is entitled to food. The other part of it is the gratefulness of the people that come in,” Sheridan said.

Grateful to have food on the table and for people volunteering at the pantry to lend a helping hand. “They make you feel good coming here. It’s been really helpful to make the difference, you know, putting stuff on the table. Everybody doesn’t realize, you can be on the other end of the scale and you need help. People need help once in a while. I hope that someday I can volunteer here myself when I get back going,” said client Lawrence Miller.

ABC7 has partnered with the Northern Illinois Food Bank and Greater Chicago Food.

WSCP Introduces Shopping Model

More than 40 volunteers and staff gathered at West Suburban Community Pantry during the weekend of January 12, 2018, to help the pantry set up for its switch to client-choice shopping.

Over three days, they worked together to move product, remove shelving, create a labeling system and clean the Community Pantry to prepare for a new phase in the organization’s history.

“We’re widening the aisles to make it more like a grocery store,” says Joe Jobst, the pantry supervisor. “Clients will be able to choose what they like.”

Clients who visit WSCP will now walk the aisles with a personal volunteer and choose the items they know and like, a trend that is growing among food pantries across the nation. A color-coded labeling system for small, medium and large families ensures that households receive the amount of food they need.

“Through this experience, we can foster closer relationships with clients and learn more about what they want,” says Executive Director Laura Traut-Coyle. “There is so much research out there to support the client-choice shopping model.”

Transitioning to shopping

The transition started more than a year ago as WSCP realized that other pantries in the area were also moving to shopping.
Formally known as “client choice,” the model implements a grocery store feel to enhance the pantry experience and to make food pantries less intimidating for clients. As its name implies, it offers clients more choices than traditional food boxes, which in turn can boost their self-esteem in situations that may be hurting it.

“That little, seemingly simple act of picking an item off of a shelf reminds you that you are capable of making choices for you and your family,” says Executive Director Laura Traut-Coyle. “Shopping is better for our clients’ dignity and confidence.”

WSCP tested the model to get client feedback, which showed that clients overwhelmingly preferred the shopping model. Knowing that clients enjoyed shopping, WSCP staff got to work figuring out the best approach for the pantry.

Over six months, staff met with other local pantries that had already made the switch to shopping to learn best practices. They asked volunteers, who are on the frontlines of helping our clients at every distribution, what would work best. From there, Joe presented a plan of action to staff and volunteers to prepare for the change.

Even once the aisles were moved around and product restocked, WSCP staff and volunteers spent a week educating clients on exactly what was going to happen.

“We wanted clients to walk through the aisles and see what was going to happen,” says Volunteer Coordinator Denice Kraft. “That way, they won’t be overwhelmed or confused when the switch actually happens.”

Joe and Denice explained the new system to the intake team that works directly with clients, registering them and understanding the other needs they might have aside from food. For more than a week, Joe started each shift greeting clients and warming them up to the changes, explaining how the new model would improve their experience.

“We talked to a few clients, and two of the six like the pantry how it is,” he says at a staff meeting one morning. “Four of the six are excited for the switch.”

Putting it into action

Eight clients waited on Tuesday afternoon on January 23, excited to experience the Community Pantry’s new model. Volunteers stood ready with shopping carts to assist. Laura stood at the main entrance to the pantry floor, greeting clients with a brand new, eco-friendly shopping bag displaying WSCP’s fresh and colorful new logo.

Throughout the afternoon, clients weaved in and out of aisles with their volunteers, selecting the meats, dairy products and canned goods that they needed.

Clients expressed their love of the new system—which also allows those with limited mobility to “place” an order during the intake process—especially the choice to take only what they need.

“I love it,” one of our clients said. “Before, with the tables, you felt a little rushed and like you had to take everything. Now, you can just take what you need.”

Weija Chang, an area specialist with Northern Illinois Food Bank, says that the client-choice model does eliminate food waste in addition to providing clients with a more familiar shopping experience. It also allows pantries to operate more efficiently.
“When pantry guests shop for themselves, the pantry is able to have better inventory control,” she says. “This lessens the guesswork around stocking the shelves and leads to less food waste, making the entire system more efficient and effective in solving hunger.”

A fresh approach for WSCP

Creating a grocery store experience is part of a wider strategy by WSCP to focus on its nutritional and holistic approach to food insecurity and poverty in DuPage and Will Counties. The Community Pantry has also introduced a new logo to highlight the core food service it provides and to showcase the fresh foods available at the Community Pantry.

“All of the changes made really started with the people we serve in mind,” says Laura. “We know that the more we can do to provide our clients with a dignified experience, the more likely they are to get back on their feet quickly. Our goal is to provide a positive and hopeful encounter for everyone who comes in contact with West Suburban Community Pantry.”