For Chicago's poor, a long wait in line for food

The poet Carl Sandburg called Chicago "the city of big shoulders." And in this economy, those shoulders are needed more than ever to help lift the poor, as CBS News correspondent Dean Reynolds reports.

In the rain and chill of an October morning, they waited for food -- many for hours.

"I got here at 5 o'clock this morning," said Marlon Jenkins, one of the people waiting on line.

The St. Columbanus Church food pantry on Chicago's south side is where then-President-elect Barack Obama handed out Thanksgiving dinners in 2008.

Back then, the pantry fed about 370 hungry households every week. Now the number is up to 500 and counting.

Every Wednesday, the line stretches around the corner. "It keeps getting worse every week," said Father Mike Knotek, who greets almost everyone who waits.

Most, like Marcia and Ray Harris, live well below the poverty line.

"If we didn't have the food pantry," said Marcia, "we wouldn't be eating."

Renyolds asked Knotek how he give these people hope.

"Well, really, they give me hope," he responded. "To be one small part of them being able to have what they need."

Each person gets about 35 pounds of canned goods and 35 pounds of fresh meat and produce, most of it donated from local groceries and restaurants

But some Wednesdays, the food runs out before the people do.

"What do say to them?" Reynolds asked Knotek.

"I apologize."

"Does it in any way test your faith?"

"No. Not really, just the opposite. I feel honored and privileged really to be a part of the solution rather than the problem. Nothing's going to break their spirit."

Because as he sees it, if you take care of the poor, the poor will take care of you.

  • Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.