Annual 5K/10K Run & Walk helps Northern Illinois Food Bank feed families

  • Runners take part in a previous Fight Hunger 5K/10K Run & Walk to benefit the Northern Illinois Food Bank. This year's event will take place April 23 at Cantigny Park in Wheaton.

    Runners take part in a previous Fight Hunger 5K/10K Run & Walk to benefit the Northern Illinois Food Bank. This year's event will take place April 23 at Cantigny Park in Wheaton. Courtesy of Northern Illinois Food Bank

 
 
Updated 4/3/2022 8:54 AM

No one should have to go hungry. But that is the reality for many households during these tough economic times. Even in the suburbs.

The Northern Illinois Food Bank, with distribution centers in Geneva, Park City, Rockford and Joliet, works to make sure everyone has enough food to put on the table.

 

With a variety of programs, from Mobile Markets to a SNAP Outreach and Resource Call Center, the nonprofit organization offers assistance to all ages, from children to seniors.

In order to raise funds, the food bank hosts its annual Fight Hunger 5K/10K Run & Walk at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, April 23, at Cantigny Park, 1S151 Winfield Road in Wheaton. Those who wish to stay socially distant can take part virtually from a location of their choice.

Jennifer Clark, marketing communications manager for the Northern Illinois Food Bank in Geneva, talks about the organization and its upcoming event.

Q: What is the Northern Illinois Food Bank?

A: Northern Illinois Food Bank provides fresh, nutritious food and other resources so that our neighbors can thrive. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and proud member of Feeding America.

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The Northern Illinois Food Bank offers various programs and Mobile Markets. This food distribution drive took place at Elgin Community College.
The Northern Illinois Food Bank offers various programs and Mobile Markets. This food distribution drive took place at Elgin Community College. - Courtesy of Northern Illinois Food Bank

Q: Give a brief overview of what the organization does and who you serve.

A: We provide 250,000 meals a day with dignity, equity and convenience for our neighbors in 13 counties. We bring together manufacturers, local and corporate grocers, area farmers, corporations, foundations, and individuals who donate food and funding.

Each week nearly 1,000 volunteers help us evaluate, repack and distribute food. We also proudly partner with more than 900 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and youth and senior meal programs to provide nutritious food and resources.

We have distribution centers in Geneva, Park City, Rockford and Joliet. The 13 counties we serve are Boone, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, Ogle, Stephenson, Will and Winnebago.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

• Our Mission: To provide nutritious food and resources for our neighbors with dignity, equity and convenience, through partnerships and innovation.

• Our Vision is for everyone in Northern Illinois to have the food they need to thrive.

Q: Where do the majority of your donations come from?

A: Our donations primarily consist of food and funds. We purchase food with the financial donations we receive. We also receive food donations from our partners in the food/grocery industry, as well as farmers.

We receive some government subsidies, especially during the pandemic. Ninety-seven percent of our resources go to programs that provide meals and resources for our neighbors.

You can find our Annual Report at annualreport.solvehungertoday.org.

Q: How many people per year do you serve?

A: Last year, we distributed an unprecedented 100 million meals. In the 13 counties we serve, we estimate 350,000 people -- including 100,000 children -- are facing the challenge of having enough food.

Even more are making tough sacrifices so they can buy the food they need to thrive. We have enough food and resources in Northern Illinois that no one should have to skip a meal or worry about paying for groceries.

Food insecurity isn't just a large city issue. Hunger affects suburbs, rural communities, small towns and mid-sized cities like Joliet, Aurora and Rockford. Layoffs, furloughs, hour cuts and pay cuts have devastated our neighbors, some who were already living paycheck to paycheck before the pandemic hit.

With little, if any, savings, they are having to choose between paying their rent/mortgage or bills, paying for child care, and buying groceries. That's a decision no one should have to make.

Volunteers help at the Northern Illinois Food Bank Holiday Meal Box distribution in Aurora in 2021. The food bank provided 58,000 boxes that included turkeys, potatoes, rice and holiday sides.
Volunteers help at the Northern Illinois Food Bank Holiday Meal Box distribution in Aurora in 2021. The food bank provided 58,000 boxes that included turkeys, potatoes, rice and holiday sides. - Courtesy of Northern Illinois Food Bank

Q: What are some of your programs?

A: My Pantry Express, an online food ordering service where you can choose the food you need and pick up the free groceries at sites convenient to you.

• Winnebago Community Market, a food pantry operated out of our Northwest Center in Rockford.

• Mobile Markets, food distributions where you can drive through and we'll load pre-packed, free groceries in your trunk or back seat.

• Child Nutrition Program provides ways for children to get fresh, nutritious food, even if they aren't at school. These include summer meal and backpack programs.

• Senior Grocery Programs provide fresh, nutritious foods to our neighbors who are older than 60.

• Healthy Communities Programs, such as Screen and Intervene Program and Rx Mobiles, collaborating with health care partners to provide health information and fresh, nutritious foods to our neighbors who are at risk for chronic disease.

• SNAP Outreach and Resource Call Center helps our neighbors navigate the SNAP (food stamps) application process or connect them with other resources.

• Holiday Meal Box Program: We provided 58,000 boxes that included turkeys, potatoes, rice and holiday sides in 2021.

Q: Tell us about the Fight Hunger 5K/10K Run & Walk event. How does it work?

A: Northern Illinois Food Bank is hosting its ninth annual Fight Hunger 5K/10K Run & Walk at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, April 23. We are expecting 1,000-1,500 runners and walkers who have the option to participate on-site at Cantigny Park, 1S151 Winfield Road in Wheaton, or virtually from a location of their choice.

This fun, family event is open to all levels of participants. Our post-race festival invites registrants to enjoy food from our eight participating food trucks, and Heartland beverage will provide drinks.

Participant fee is $45, with proceeds benefiting the Food Bank. Glanbia Performance Nutrition is presenting sponsor.

Sign up now for the Fight Hunger 5K/10K Run & Walk to benefit the Northern Illinois Food Bank. There is both an in-person and virtual option.
Sign up now for the Fight Hunger 5K/10K Run & Walk to benefit the Northern Illinois Food Bank. There is both an in-person and virtual option. - Courtesy of Northern Illinois Food Bank

Q: How can people participate?

A: Register at SolveHungerToday.org/FightHunger. Choose to participate individually or sponsor a team and fundraise at the same time!

Q: How can readers help if they can't participate in the event?

A: Spread the word: Share our belief that everyone should have the food they need to thrive. With increased awareness of hunger, and by eliminating the stigma of seeking help, we can reach more of our neighbors. Share how you're helping to end hunger on social media and use the hashtag #TogetherWeAreSolvingHunger.

Be supportive: If a neighbor, friend, co-worker, or family member is struggling to make ends meet, encourage them to go to their local food pantry or visit a Mobile Market food distribution.

Volunteer: Northern Illinois Food Bank has numerous volunteer opportunities each week to evaluate, repack and distribute food. Sign up to volunteer at SolveHungerToday.org/Volunteer.

Donate: Every $1 donated helps provide $8 worth of groceries through Northern Illinois Food Bank. That means a $100 donation can feed a family for a month. Donate at SolveHungerToday.org/Donate.

Q: What else would you like readers to know?

A: If you need food, visit SolveHungerToday.org and click on Get Groceries. Our website's interactive map can help you find a food pantry or meal program near you.

We offer other resources too, including mobile market food distributions and our team can provide assistance in navigating SNAP, WIC and other public benefits programs.

Call the food bank's Resource Call Center toll-free at (844) 600-7627.

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