Since 1983, the Northern Illinois Food Bank (NIFB) has provided food to people in need in 13 northern Illinois counties.
In 2010, NIFB was facing a double challenge. As a result of the prolonged downturn and a long period of unemployment, the food bank was working hard to deliver 65% more food than just four years earlier. In addition, many of their recipients lived in suburban areas, where food pantries were not easily accessible.
The solution came from the food bank's partnership with Bank of America.
In the years since it was founded, NIFB has honed its distribution methods so food is picked up and distributed efficiently. NIFB gets food from the government, manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers, food drives and Feeding America. It is then distributed to local food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, youth activity centers and schools, helping over 500,000 people each year.
One of the most successful aspects of NIFB's operations is food recovery. With the help of volunteers, NIFB picks up perishable food from over 100 retail stores and warehouse clubs, and delivers it to organizations that can make use of it quickly. In this way, the food bank saved more than millions of pounds of food that would have ended up in landfills.
Bank of America was a supporter of NIFB as early as 2008. Then last year, the bank gave a grant to buy a second refrigerated truck for the food bank's innovative Mobile Pantry Program. The truck carries 10,000 pounds of food and arrives at set locations such as schools, churches or parking lots. People are invited to choose the items they want; volunteers help set up tables and carry food to clients' cars. Typically, a visit lasts two hours at each location, servicing as many as 300 families.
NIFB works with a network of agencies, donors and community resources. But it is the volunteers—many from Bank of America—who do much of the physical labor. They help sort food in the warehouses and work from the truck, passing out food to the families. Last year, 90,000 hours were volunteered, helping move 10 million pounds of food.
As Pete Schaefer, President and CEO of NIFB says, "Hunger in America is a reality. But with institutions like NIFB and Bank of America, we can do something about it. There's food out there; we just need the trucks to go get it, the volunteers to help us sort it and the agencies to help us distribute it. This is a problem that can be solved."
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