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Illinois News

Kosher Food Pantry, The Ark, Reopens in Chicago with Eatery & Grocery

Jewish social service agency The Ark has unveiled its $20 million renovated facility this month in West Ridge, which includes an innovative food pantry that operates similarly to a grocery store.

Located at 6450 N. California Ave., The Ark officially reopened its updated headquarters on May 10. The renovations were set to enhance the organization’s capacity to serve an additional 1,000 clients annually, adding to the 5,000 individuals who currently depend on its services for food assistance and healthcare access.

The expansion has not only enlarged the food pantry but also enhanced accessibility to a pharmacy, broadened healthcare facilities, and created a larger area for community events and professional events development. The ethos of The Ark is to provide holistic support, encompassing the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health of each individual.

Significantly, the food pantry’s size has quadrupled, allowing it to mimic the experience of a traditional supermarket. Patrons can visit the pantry to select food, cleaning supplies, and personal hygiene products directly from the shelves, or they can opt for online ordering with options for pickup or delivery. Specializing in kosher foods, the pantry addresses the higher costs and accessibility challenges associated with these products, aiming to enhance the dignity and self-reliance of its clients.

Adjacent to the food pantry is a newly expanded gathering area, designed to accommodate up to 100 people for community meals and other events. Meals are served restaurant-style, giving attendees the choice of menu items prepared and served by volunteers. This area is also utilized for educational programs and as a space for case managers to meet with clients, fostering a sense of community and addressing individual challenges.

The facility’s medical capabilities have also seen significant upgrades. The pharmacy has been relocated to the first floor, simplifying access for medication pickups. Additionally, The Ark dispenses over 10,000 free prescriptions annually. The medical facilities now include offices for specialized services such as dermatology, dental care, and mental health support, all designed to provide comprehensive, free care.

The renovation has introduced a rooftop community garden, contributing to the food pantry and providing a therapeutic space for adults with mental health challenges. This initiative is part of a broader day program that includes activities and group therapy sessions, aimed at enriching the lives of participants.

Founded in 1971 as a free medical clinic, The Ark has grown to offer extensive support aimed at helping clients maintain stability and move towards self-reliance. After recognizing a growing need within the community, exacerbated by the pandemic, The Ark began its capital campaign for the new facility in 2019, with construction commencing in 2022. The newly renovated space is not just a building but a beacon of hope, designed to bring light and optimism into the lives of those it serves.