ecofriendly initiatives

Filling plates instead of landfills

01/May/17 / 20:01

The spirit of Earth Day lingers on at Northern Illinois Food Bank, as well as Feeding America and all 200 Food Banks across the network, where we consider our impact on the Earth every day. We strongly believe the nature of our work requires us to do our part, not only in helping reduce food and landfill waste, but to make environmentally-friendly, sustainable practices a part of everything we do.

Taking a bite out of food waste

food waste pyramidAccording to a recent video from Feeding America, 72 billion pounds of food (worth $218 billion) is thrown away each year, equating to 21 percent of landfill volume.
Here at Northern Illinois Food Bank, the primary way we reduce food waste is through our Food Recovery Program, which last year alone rescued more than 32.5 million pounds of food from going to waste in the landfill—totaling more than 27 million meals for hungry neighbors across Northern Illinois.
Not only do our drivers pick up unsold, perishable foods from more than 350 participating retail partners (which in turn helps stores reduce disposal costs on perfectly good food), our Direct Connect program also allows our network agency partners (food pantries and feeding sites) to pick up food directly from participating stores whenever it is available. This in turn allows them to get fresh, nutritious foods in the hands of our neighbors as quickly as possible.
And in case you were wondering what happens to food we’re unable to distribute to hungry neighbors because it does not meet food safety guidelines, we have a plan for that, too!

  • We help feed animals – some food we are unable to distribute to hungry neighbors will be sent to partner animal rescues, sanctuaries, and farms to be used in animal feed.
  • Composting – Northern Illinois Food Bank composted 238 tons of food scrap last year. We also partner with Pushing the Envelope Farm on our annual Pumpkin Pitch composting event, where we encourage community members to donate their used, post-Halloween pumpkins to help nourish the soil at Pushing the Envelope Farm, and thus help grow next year’s crop.


Going green “at home” and in our community


  • LEEDing by example – In April 2012, Northern Illinois Food Bank became the first new-construction food bank in the country to receive LEED® Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Additionally, some of our landscaping is also green (literally and figuratively), as we have several herb gardens and window box gardens that produce a small amount of food for our hungry neighbors.
  • Recycling – our Geneva warehouse has a whole room dedicated to recycling, where we’re able to not only sort paper, plastic and other goods for recycling, but can also extract dry and liquid goods in order to then recycle their packaging.
  • Green community partners – we are fortunate to partner with several community organizations that share our enthusiasm in doing our part to make the world a better place through recycling, composting, and community farming:
    • IFSC – Northern Illinois Food Bank is a member of the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition, which partners with various community groups, organizations, and schools to advance food scrap composting efforts throughout Illinois.
    • SCARCE – an environmental education non-profit dedicated to helping build more sustainable communities.
    • Pushing the Envelope Farm – a not-for-profit community farm and education center which also donates a portion of each year’s crop to Northern Illinois Food Bank.
  • Garden Connect Program – speaking of community farms and gardens, we are also working hard to grow our Food Bank community gardens program – Garden Connect! Started last year by one of our AmeriCorps VISTA members, read more about Garden Connect here or contact Shelbi Ball for more information – Email.

We have long known that hunger is a solvable issue—that there is enough food to feed every hungry neighbor every day for every meal. You can support our efforts to go green, helping fill the plates of our hungry neighbors instead of the landfills, by making a donation to the Food Bank today.


How You Can Help:


  • Volunteer at one of our Centers in Geneva, Rockford or Park City sorting and packing food
  • Donate to help us solve hunger in your community – every $1 donated provides $8 worth of food.



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