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Coronavirus

Northern Illinois Food Bank not running out of food, seeks monetary donations

Pictured is a Northern Illinois Food Bank distribution center in Joliet. Food is not available for pickup at the center. To find local food pantries, visit solvehungertoday.org.
Pictured is a Northern Illinois Food Bank distribution center in Joliet. Food is not available for pickup at the center. To find local food pantries, visit solvehungertoday.org.

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“We are not running out of food.”

So said Elizabeth Gartman, communications manager, Northern Illinois Food Bank.

However, the pandemic has affected certain global food supplies, Gartman said.

“There are items that are more difficult for us to get right now,” Gartman said. “It’s very out of whack from what we normally see.”

And that especially includes meat.

With some meat-packing plants temporary closing because of COVID-19, the Northern Illinois Food Bank is experiencing meat shortages, especially pork and chicken.

To track the status of meat packing plants across the world, visit an interactive map online at bit.ly/2Sxl5nI.

“We typically have a lot of meat,” Gartman said. “But with some meat processor plants having to close due to positive cases of staff workers, creates a lower supply chain for that and a great demand for meat like chicken and pork … there’s just no meat for us to get.”

However, in addition to meat, canned vegetables are also in short supply because they are a high-demand retail product right now, Gartman said.

“Those are usually a three- to four-week lead time,” Gartman said. “Now it’s an eight to 12-week lead time. Our inventory is changing by the hour. The food comes in and goes back out.”

So what is still available?

“Right now we have a ton of variety of canned soups,” Gartman said. “We have skillet meals. We have some macaroni and cheese. We have a lot of staple items and produce: apples, asparagus, carrots, cabbage, potatoes and onions.”

Gartman said the food bank has worked with farm bureaus in their service areas to provide fresh milk, too.

“We recently had a donation from Sanfilippo. They gave us a huge donation of peanut butter,” Gartman said.

The food bank has received quite a bit of fresh produce from food suppliers for restaurants simply because many of them are either not operating or not operating at full capacity, she said.

So the food bank has hosted pop-up markets at various location in Northern Illinois to distribute
it. A recent pop-up market
in Joliet served 1,200 people; in Geneva, the market served 750, according to the food bank website.

“We’ve had those weekly, but we’re hoping to increase that to twice weekly,” Gartman said.

The website also said the food bank distributed
6.1 million meals in March, half a million meals over its goal. That equals 200,000 meals a day, according to its the website.

For people who’d like to donate, the food bank prefers monetary donations over donations of food products, Gartman said.

“We’re able to turn every dollar that is donated into $8 of groceries,” Gartman said.

Know more

If you need food:

Visit the Northern Illinois Food Bank website at solvehungertoday.org. Resources, including local food banks, meal tips and the SNAP program are under “Get Groceries.”

Be sure to check out the food pantry finder. Simply put in your zip code to see pantries near you. Or call 844-600-7627.

The food bank website also has information on the coronavirus, resources for food pantries and other food programs and information and best practices for nutrition professionals.

If you can volunteer:

Call 630-443-6910 and ask for the volunteer team.

To donate:

Visit the Northern Illinois Food Bank website at solvehungertoday.org. Under “Get Involved” is a variety of ways to help, including ways individuals and corporations can donate.

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