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Families In Need Missing Out On Cleaning Supplies During Pandemic, So Food Pantries Seek To Fill Gap Where Food Stamps Fall Short

CHICAGO (CBS) — Happening this morning: a food pantry drive, but organizers are not looking for food. Instead, they’re hoping you can spare what’s under your sink.

CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory explains why it’s not COVID-19 that’s left cleaning products for those in need in low supply.

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More requests, fewer resources.

“It was a kind of a double whammy,” said Laura Coyle, executive director of West Suburban Community Pantry.

Coyle said running the pantry during a pandemic has been quite the lesson in efficiency.

Volunteers churned out triple the amount of boxes, with way less help than usual at the beginning.

Even now, demand is still 50% above normal.

“It’s been challenging this past year to make sure we have all the supplies that we need,” Coyle said.

Particularly hurting: the shelf with cleaning supplies. From laundry detergent to bleach to disinfecting wipes to sponges, the stock of household items is painfully low and it’s not because of COVID-19.

“Most of the things we get donated from the community, or even manufacturers, or grocery stores are things that will expire,” Coyle said.

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The other issue: cleaning and paper products are always a hot commodity at the pantry, because they’re not covered by food stamps. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is very specific: benefits can only be used for food.

That means, even with the virus threat, items like soap, hand sanitizer, and alcohol wipes are not eligible for SNAP.

We asked the United States Department of Agriculture about making an emergency exception for those types of cleaning products. The USDA’s answer: that “would require the passage of a new law by Congress.”

“Unfortunately, it is food pantries that have to step in and fill that gap,” Coyle said.

You can help. The Rotary Club of Naperville Sunrise is hosting a special “Spring Cleaning Drive” over the next two weeks. You can drop off unused paper and household products, but make sure they’re sealed. Half-filled bottles of 409 or Scrubbing Bubbles can’t be accepted.

The hope: to keep this well-oiled machine going, and everyone’s homes well-fed and clean.

The Drive-By Drop-Off Spring Cleaning Supplies Drive will happen on Friday April 16 and April 23 in front of Naperville Country Club located at 25W 570 Chicago Avenue in Naperville. Volunteers will receive items from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.

Suggested items include: disinfectants, cleaners, detergents, and supplies (like buckets and sponges).

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You can also make monetary donations on the West Suburban Community Pantry website.

Source: CBS Chicago | News Colony

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