Across the country, food banks, food pantries, and other community organizations are working tirelessly to solve hunger in their communities. But how do all of these different pieces of the puzzle come together to provide meals for neighbors in need?
That’s exactly what Northern Illinois Food Bank supporters discovered on Saturday, May 4 during our fourth annual “Follow the Food” bus tour. We started the day at our South Suburban Center in Joliet (which incidentally celebrated the one-year anniversary of its opening on the same day!) for a brief introduction to the day’s events, followed by a taste of what it’s like to volunteer at the Food Bank and a tour of the center.
Our group then walked across the parking lot to our neighbors at Sam’s Club Joliet. Here we had the privilege of taking a guided tour of the store’s food rescue operations in the produce, deli, bakery and dairy sections. Fun fact: produce donations from Sam’s Club Joliet started three years ago!
We left Sam’s Club in style aboard the Follow the Food bus, and traveled across town to check out the community garden at All Nations Church of God in Christ. There, garden director Tempie Brooks shared how the garden continues to grow and become a resource for the families it serves, while also giving the community something to invest in.
After the community garden, it was back on the bus for a quick drive to the first of two food pantries: Frankfort Township Food Pantry. Here, we chatted with pantry staff about food recovery and general pantry operations, learning that 62 percent of clients at this particular pantry are senior citizens. We also toured the rooms inside the Frankfort Township building where the pantry is located.
Once we saw the sights at Frankfort Township, we hopped on the bus for the final leg of our journey to Faith Movers Food Pantry in University Park. At Faith Movers, we took a tour of where the pantry is located inside the church, and heard from the executive director about food deserts – areas with limited access to affordable, nutritious food due to lack of transportation or nearby grocery stores(1) – and what it means to people in the local community to know they can depend on the food pantry.
To celebrate the day’s adventures, we enjoyed a delicious lunch and sang happy birthday to the South Suburban Center (with cake!) before climbing onto the Follow the Food bus one last time to travel back to Joliet.
We hope you can join us for our Follow the Food bus tour next year to learn how organizations in our community join forces to provide meals for our neighbors in need throughout Northern Illinois. There’s no better way than following the food to really see first-hand and understand how together, we ARE solving hunger.
(1)“A Look Inside Food Deserts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 21 Aug. 2017.