From food banks to soup kitchens, community foundations to food pantries, there are many non-profit organizations dedicated to providing hunger relief in our local community. With so many groups involved in helping our neighbors who struggle with hunger, it can be easy to confuse a food bank with a food pantry. What we definitely know is that together, we are solving hunger! Here’s how:
A food bank is an organization whose main job is to collect, house, and distribute food to other local hunger relief organizations, such as your local food pantry. While food banks vary in size and operation, you can generally think of a food bank as a warehouse or distribution center.
Typically, a food bank will not give out food directly to people in the community who are facing hunger. Instead, food banks collect donated and rescued food in bulk from grocery retailers, manufacturers, farmers, growers, government agencies, and other sources. Once the food has been inspected and sorted for quality by staff and volunteers, it is distributed to food pantries and other feeding programs, who then provide the food directly to our neighbors in need.
Northern Illinois Food Bank, for example, is one of seven Feeding America food banks serving the state of Illinois, where 1.4 million people (more than 25% of whom are children) struggle with hunger. We help provide wholesome, nutritious meals to more than half a million people each year across 13 counties through our partnerships with more than 800 food pantries and feeding programs. These include soup kitchens, shelters, youth and senior homes, and mobile pantries.
While food banks and food pantries have different roles to play, they are both essential to providing hunger relief for our neighbors in need. An example of how these two types of organizations can collaborate to better serve people struggling with hunger is the Winnebago Community Market, a member agency of Northern Illinois Food Bank located in our distribution center in Rockford. The Winnebago Community Market is a healthy, client-choice food pantry that provides food to Winnebago county residents on the 2nd, 4th and 5th Thursdays of each month. Learn more and volunteer at the Winnebago Community Market.