AniMeals Pet Food Pantry is an all-volunteer, non-denominational community outreach program of St. Paul’s Church by-the-Lake of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago.   Since June 2001, AniMeals has provided pet food to low-income and senior pet owners in Chicago’s Rogers Park and Uptown neighborhoods.

AniMeals is committed to providing short-term help to pet owners who are facing unemployment, underemployment, or temporary financial setbacks.  Additionally, we reach out to pet owners who experience chronic unemployment or cyclical poverty and to those who, because of age, health, or personal circumstances, likely will face ongoing financial challenges even as the economy improves.


During the summer of 2001, St. Paul’s Rector was notified that the organization that had sponsored a pet food pantry at the Church for several years had decided to cease its operation there and move to another location.  Realizing that some pantry clients might be unaware of the change and still arrive at St. Paul’s seeking pet food, he contacted several volunteers about helping out in what was thought to be an interim situation.  Food was purchased, and clients did, in fact, turn up at St. Paul’s.

Volunteers learned within several weeks that pet food distribution at Chicago Uptown Ministry would also come to a close, so volunteers provided food there, too.  While volunteers were sorting out options for clients, St. Paul’s received two donations to support the pet food pantry.  And, nine years later, those initial donors, along with other supporters, still are making sure that AniMeals is there as a lifeline for people and their pets.

How do people qualify for help and what services do they get?

Clients are asked to demonstrate financial need by providing proof of income qualification.  All clients must agree to have their pets neutered or spayed if the opportunity to do so is available to them at no cost.  An exception will be made if a veterinarian determines that surgery may be life-threatening to the pet or is not recommended because of the pet’s age or health.   We do not provide food to pet owners who are breeding their animals – no exception.

We understand that the same logistical barriers that prevent pet owners from affording food for their pets – insufficient resources, lack of transportation, and limited life management skills – are also the barriers that prevent them from seeking neuter/spay services.  In the past, we have made arrangements to provide neuter/spay services free of charge, along with transportation, in cooperation with the Anti-Cruelty Society and PAWS Chicago.

A donation at the end of 2009 made it possible for us to provide neuter/spay services at no charge to AniMeals’ clients at Tree House Humane Society’s BDVM MacLean Clinic and to sponsor the first of two Wellness and Vaccine Days at the Clinic also at no charge to our clients.  This gift was made in honor of Edna C. Riley, one of the founders of AniMeals.

Please see our Client Registration, Donate, and  Riley Fund pages for more information.

How does the program work?

Pet food is distributed at two locations, St. Paul’s Church by-the-Lake between 12:00 noon and 1:00pm on the third Saturday of the month and Chicago Uptown Ministry between 9:00am and 10:00am on the third Wednesday of the month.

Clients receive each month:

  • an average of 3.5 pounds of dry food and 2 cans of wet food per cat;
  • cat litter;
  • a month’s supply of dry food according to recommended feeding guidelines and 2 cans of wet food per dog;
  • a month’s supply of food for fish, birds, and small pets according to recommended feeding guidelines; and
  • treats if available.

We attempt to meet the needs of individual pets if a diet recommendation has been made by a veterinarian or if a pet has a strong food preference.  When supplies allow, we provide dry food for those caring for feral cat colonies.

Food is provided for up to four pets, but exceptions have been made for additional pets.

Additionally, each Christmas, clients’ pets receive special treats and toys to celebrate the holiday season.  Clients also receive small gifts, from holiday candies and cookies to tote bags and calendars – all provided by volunteers and donors.

See our Locations page for more information about our distribution sites.

Where does AniMeals get pet food, supplies, and funding?

AniMeals relies solely on individual monetary gifts and donations of food and supplies to meet the needs of our clients.   Donations to St. Paul’s Church by-the-Lake on behalf of AniMeals are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

We do not receive government funding or foundation grants.  The IRS recognizes churches as tax-exempt entities, but churches are not required to file an application for tax exempt-status.  As such, we are ineligible to apply to foundations that require applicants to have 501(c)(3) charitable status.

See our Donate and Riley Fund pages to learn more about supporting AniMeals.

Who are the volunteers and what do they do?

AniMeals’ volunteers are committed to making sure people do not have to choose between feeding themselves and feeding their pets.  Our volunteers tend to lend their support to other causes in addition to AniMeals, so we know they are very busy and greatly appreciate their time.

Volunteers generally pick-up and deliver food donations, assist on distribution days, or transport clients’ pets to clinics.  Volunteers also organize St. Paul’s annual Liturgy in Remembrance of Departed Pets and Animals in May and the annual Blessing of Pets and Animals in October.

See our Volunteer page for a list of volunteer activities and a volunteer application.

Does religious affiliation matter?

Religious affiliation plays no part in volunteering for AniMeals or in qualifying for its services.  St. Paul’s Church by-the-Lake hosts a number of programs that address community needs.  What matters is the desire to serve and treat others with respect and compassion.

What if I can no longer keep my pet?

We are not an animal shelter or rescue group, and we do not accept animals for placement.  If you are an existing AniMeals’ client and can no longer offer a home to your pet, we are willing to help you weigh your options and may be able to make calls on your behalf.

Please see Resources for Pets and Resources for People pages for a list of organizations that may be able to assist you in figuring out how to keep your pets or find options for them.

Page last udpated March 25, 2010.