Associates at Bolingbrook have taken turns “adopting” the micropantry for a week to ensure it is stocked for community members. Pictured clockwise from left: Debbie Sweeney, ED and ICU manager; Diane Leonard, ED, ICU and OB director; Jeanne Anderko, unit secretary; Cardiology, Cahren Cruz, Cardiology manager; and chaplain Cristina Grys, manager, Spiritual Care Services.

Photo by Jim Svehla

July 19, 2019

Hospital micropantry offers discreet way to access food

Then the righteous will answer Him, “Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink?” The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me (Matthew 25:37, 40 NIV).

Jesus’ answer to the righteous is always a fresh reminder that we, too, are called to meet the basic needs of the least of these. As those made righteous through Christ and led by the Holy Spirit, we are often provided occasions to serve these brothers and sisters of mine. But sometimes those opportunities may come in unique ways or may cause us to question if we should answer the call.

Chaplain Cristina Grys, manager of Spiritual Care Services at AMITA Health Adventist Medical Center Bolingbrook, learned of one such opportunity earlier this year. She fielded a phone call from a gentleman who was concerned about the homeless in Joliet, roughly 10 miles south of the hospital. He recounted to Grys that he and his friends had constructed and placed 43 “micropantries” in the area. His hope was that AMITA Health Bolingbrook would allow installation of one of these units on its property as well.

Each small wooden cabinet is filled with non-perishable, healthy food items. Individuals with limited resources can take what they need with no questions asked. Then volunteers replenish the stock as necessary.

Grys loved the idea and brought it to the medical center’s nursing care committee who quickly approved it. The handmade cabinet now sits near the exit of the Emergency Department. Keeping the unit filled has been a labor of love for hospital associates. “We placed the micropantry at the beginning of March,” said Grys. “We asked departments to adopt the pantry for one week, and the idea was so popular that within a month we nearly filled the schedule for the entire year.” She believes that giving people a way to serve that is visible and easy to accomplish has been key.

Chief nursing officer Obed Cruz said this is a feel-good project for staff. “The speed at which we’ve gotten buy-in from associates speaks well to their willingness to quickly step in and lend a hand to make a difference for their neighbors in need,” he said. Cruz said he has seen conversations about donating to the effort from members of the community on Facebook.

With its location outside the emergency room entrance, the micropantry helps maintain privacy and dignity for those accessing it. Grys said occasionally the person who has fallen on hard times may be a staff member who could benefit from a bit of assistance.

“We provide health care to patients from all walks of life,” said Grys. “We’ve seen grandmothers raising three to four grandchildren who are worried about where their next meal is coming from. Our mission is to extend the healing ministry of Christ, so if people are hungry and don’t have enough, we can’t look the other way.”

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Julie Busch, associate vice president, Communications, AMITA Health