Why Jennifer Lamplough, Chief Impact Officer, Became a Food Banker

I became a food banker because I had a student named Terrence.

I was teaching culinary arts at a local college and Terrence was in the first class I ever taught.

Terrence was a terrible cook. Worse than terrible. Couldn’t follow a recipe. Didn’t know the
difference between broccoli and celery. Didn’t care about the fundamentals of hospitality, at all.
Day after frustrating day, I wondered why on earth Terrence was enrolled in a culinary
arts program.

One day I snapped at him when he presented me with what was supposed to be silky smooth
cream of asparagus soup and what I got was tepid vegetable broth with three charred pieces of
asparagus in it. “Terrence!” I barked, pushing his bowl of whatever-that-was away from me,
“Why are you in this program? You clearly can’t do this and don’t even try that hard!”

He hung his head in shame and told me it was because he knew he would eat.

Gut punch.

Terrence didn’t have enough food to eat growing up, and still didn’t as a young adult. He was on
scholarship and knew if he enrolled in culinary, he would eat each day.

He knew he would eat.

Those words haunt me to this day and cause shame to boil inside me at the way I treated him.
I made assumptions and judgements about him and was endlessly frustrated with him and his
performance in class because I thought he just didn’t care.

I looked around my class and saw a lot of Terrences. I vowed that day to teach them all to cook if
it killed me. I wish I could say Terrence turned a corner, became a great cook and graduated with
honors. Sadly, like many college students out on their own, he couldn’t afford to stay in school,
even with scholarships to cover tuition.

I didn’t officially become a food banker until 11 years later when I joined the team at
Northern Illinois Food Bank
. I didn’t even know what a food bank was back then. Lucky for
me, right?

In my heart, though, I became a food banker in that moment and I vowed to help each student
learn to earn a better living if they could. Learn how to cook a good meal for their families. Learn
that I was there for them and that I would pretend to be busy so they could wrap up the leftovers
from class that they were supposed to throw away for “liability reasons.” Learn that they mattered and that there is no shame in admitting needing help. Learn that some people do care, and
won’t judge you because you can’t make ends meet.

Right now, the need for food is astronomically high. We are serving more people each month now
than we were at the height of the pandemic. You can read endless articles and research about
how high that need is and how hard it is to get enough food to feed everyone. It’s real, and
it’s tragic.

Food. A fundamental human right. Not a luxury. Imagine fighting every day to figure out how you
are going to put food on the table. Imagine waiting in line for hours to get a couple of bags of
groceries just to be able to pack your kid’s lunch. Imagine getting tears in your eyes because you
were able to get fresh grapes at the food pantry. Imagine having to decide to waste your
scholarship on a program you don’t even like just so you know you’d eat. Imagine. Can you even?
I can because I’ve seen it.

You don’t have to work at a food bank to become a food banker. It’s really easy, actually. Donate
money. Donate food. Donate time. Don’t make assumptions about people. Believe them when
they say they need help and don’t make them prove it.

Want to become a food banker today? Click the link below to donate to Northern Illinois Food
Bank and help us ensure every neighbor of ours…yours…has the food they need to thrive.


Julie Yurko’s November Letter

Our neighbors need nourishing food every single day. We’re serving the community every single day. Which might make you ask — why is providing food during the holidays so important?

Maybe it’s because our mission is about more than food. It’s also about community and connections. 

During the holiday season, we offer our Holiday Meal Box Program. Holiday Meal Boxes start with the community. Our donors help to fund them, and our volunteers help put them together! This program started in 1999 with 3,250 Holiday Meal Boxes given to neighbors in need, and it’s been going strong ever since, growing to meet the need. This year our goal is to provide 50,600 Holiday Meal Boxes. 

These food packages are one of the ways we help neighbors feel connected to their community and celebrate holidays, which can be a precious time with family. 

Think about your own family. It’s such a special time of year, across so many faith and cultural traditions. My children are grown now, so they aren’t always around. I love to get them home for the holidays whenever I can! 

But that’s not the only reason holiday giving is important. The need for food is also very high at this time of year. Let’s keep working together to meet that need and show our commitment to serving our community. Please make a holiday gift today if you can!


Julie Yurko President & CEO

Make a gift today!

For every $1 donated, Northern Illinois Food Bank is able to provide $8 worth of groceries to help a neighbor thrive. Every donation makes a real difference in the lives of our neighbors.

5 Ways You Can Help Save Our Planet

The wonderful modern technology and resources that we know and love has also led to harmful impacts on our planet. Diminishing resources, deforestation, air pollution, water crises and global warming are sadly the reality of our world today. Pollution and environmental destruction have been growing for as long as the human race has been around, but it’s only been in recent years that we’ve really started to take a closer look at our global impact. 

A list like this can seem daunting, so how can you make a difference in the world? Reducing your carbon footprint can be as easy as making some small changes that add up to big results. Check out these easy ways you can lessen your environmental impact and help save the earth.

1. Use Less Water

When it comes to using water, the little things make a big difference. Pay attention to how and when you’re using water and find new ways to reduce and reuse. Simple steps like turning the water off when brushing your teeth, taking less shower time and using a front-loading washer can go a long way. And those plastic water bottles? Say good riddance! Take advantage of your own personal reusable water bottle for water and plastic conservation.

2. Walk Instead of Drive

According to the EPA, a typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. If all of us made one small step to take less trips, we would definitely be looking at a healthier planet. If you can, try biking or walking when on your way to work, class or just out and about. Not only do you get some exercise, but you’ll help make the earth a healthier place to live. 

3. Use Less Electricity

The burning of substances like coal and natural gas for electrical energy is the most common source of air pollution. You can help change this by reducing dependence on electricity. Take steps like shutting off equipment when not in use, closing air conditioning vents in unused rooms, washing clothes in cold water and turning the lights off whenever you leave a room. Reducing our reliance on electricity also reduces our reliance on unhealthy air pollutants. 

4. Buy Local 

Buying local goods helps combat air pollution in two ways: you don’t have to travel as far to buy items, and the goods don’t have to travel as far to get to you. Be aware of where to buy products, which helps impact our environmental health. Shop at local farmer’s markets, and buy online from nearby areas, checking to see where products were made. Not only do you help our planet, but you also support the local community!

5. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

Making a conscious effort to produce less trash helps lessen the production of unsustainable products that will end up in landfills. Go green by using reusable grocery bags, glass containers instead of plastic, reusable dinnerware, rechargeable batteries and using online and computer resources rather than printing out paper. Most importantly, use a recyclable container at home to recycle paper, plastic, cardboard and glass.

When it comes to saving our planet, small steps make a big impact. Every person can make an effort toward reducing their carbon footprint and living a more altruistic lifestyle for the world. Consider what kind of earth you want to leave behind for generations to come. Make steps today and be a force for change in a healthier, happier, world. 

5 Unexpected Benefits of Volunteering as a Family

Are you looking for a way to bring your family together? Hoping to find a hobby that can be shared by both the little ones and adults? Volunteering as a family may be just the thing you need. You may know the “feel-good” emotions that come with helping others, but there are even more unexpected ways volunteering will positively affect the whole family: 

  • You’ll feel like you have more time 

People often feel they are too busy to volunteer. Yet, the Harvard Business Review found that giving your time to community causes actually makes you feel like you have more of it. Volunteering makes us feel capable and efficient, inspiring us to make the most of each day.

  • Volunteering has a life-long effect on kids and teenagers 

Volunteering during adolescence has been linked to some major positive effects such as improved grades, reduced drug usage, and  increased self-esteem. These effects aren’t just short-term but have been proved to affect a teen’s well-being in the years to come.   

  • You can live longer if you volunteer regularly  

For adults, volunteering can provide significant physical health benefits. Washington University found that for adults 55 and older who volunteered had better stamina, memory, and maintained overall health longer than others their age. Volunteers are also more likely to look after their own health and are more focused on adding physical activity into their lives.   

  • More time spent with family 

Families who volunteer together have the unique experience of working toward a shared goal. You may even learn that your child has a talent or interest you didn’t know about before. Everyone brings something unique to the table and can connect with each other and the community in a new way. And, there are tasks for every age and ability so all your children, whether eight or 18, can feel proud of their work. 

  • You’ll be happier 

The University of Texas found in a 2003 study that becoming involved in helping your community lowers rates of depression and anxiety. By volunteering, the entire family can benefit from bettering their mental wellness and alleviating stress. 

Save Our Planet and Reduce Food Insecurity … All at the Same Time!

Data show that 1/3 of all food waste is caused by individuals when they eat out or eat at home. Growing and raising food is a very energy and water-intensive project, and discarded food creates greenhouse gases harmful to our environment. Here’s how you can help:


When you sit down, think about the whole meal before you order. Will you want dessert (ask for the dessert menu ahead of time!) And appetizers? And entrees? You can “right-size” your meal. Maybe your party of two orders appetizers, a side vegetable, and a dessert to split. If you are going with a larger group, consider ordering one fewer entree than people.

If you do take food home and eat it for lunch in a day or two (or freeze it and eat it later), then good for you! But how many doggie bags sit in the fridge until it’s time to throw them out?

At Home

The other great place to save is at the grocery store. Here are a few ways you can reduce waste and save money:

  • Always make a list before you go shopping – that way, you won’t buy food duplicates *and* you will probably spend less money
  • Store your food properly. Keep your fridge at 40 degrees F or lower.
  • Serve and eat the most perishable food in the days right after a shopping trip.
  • Not all perishables are created equal. Apples and oranges keep longer than bananas and avocados, especially in hot weather, so go to the supermarket often or buy some of the sturdier perishables as well as the more delicate fruits and veggies.
  • Be sure to buy foods that are stored in different ways. If everything you buy is meant for the fridge, your supermarket haul will probably expire faster than it would if you had also purchased shelf-stable items (pasta, nuts, beans) and direct-to-freezer foods.
  • Moldy food might not be all bad. You can cut mold off of hard cheese and eat the rest.
  • Make a commitment to eating up your leftovers (maybe you have a weekly Leftover Night.) Or, freeze them immediately in meal-sized containers. If you find yourself dumping them six months later, scale back the amounts you prepare.

A Different Kind of New Year Resolution

Each new year, people worldwide are filled with a newfound optimism in their ability to do better. We see it every January and February – we make resolutions centered around things like losing weight, kicking old habits and taking up new hobbies.

As we come to the end of 2022, many of us are taking time to consider our resolutions with all the good intentions of the new year. No doubt, the typical resolutions of weight loss and healthy eating are great forms of self-improvement. They are full of merit, and it is important for us to take care of our own personal well-being.

However, perhaps this year we can also incorporate resolutions that give back to our community as a whole. Here are three different kinds of resolutions you can make this year to help our neighbors thrive.

1. Teach Our Children about Giving Back

Involve your children in your plans to give back. Organize a community food drive, spend the morning volunteering at our warehouse, or even read them the classic tale of Stone Soup – there are many age-appropriate ways to introduce children of all ages to the concept of kōkua. 

Resolution: I will volunteer at a Northern Illinois Food Bank opportunity this year that my whole family can attend!

2. Share Social Media Posts

A big part of our mission involves keeping our community up-to-date on things like food distributions, volunteer opportunities and emergency preparedness. Tag, like, share, follow – just one click or tap can go a long way in helping our neighbors thrive. #ActionMattersMost #NeighborsEmpowered

Resolution: I will follow Northern Illinois Food Bank and share content to show what I stand for!

3. Join the Mission to Help Our Neighbors Thrive

For many of our donors, recurring gifts are a practical and convenient way to give back. These gifts allow us to focus our resources more on programs and less on raising necessary funds. Just $1 can help provide $8 worth of groceries.

Resolution: I will make my donation a recurring one to Help Our Neighbors Thrive.