Food banks looking for more donations during tough times

By Danny Ciamprone

One in 10 Illinois residents need to receive emergency food sources from food banks.

This is the latest statistic in a report issued by the organization Feeding Illinois. The report also states unemployment rates are at 11 percent and poverty is at 12 percent, making food availability difficult for thousands of families.

These deteriorating economic trends have called on Illinois food banks more than ever. Chris White, Northern Illinois Food Bank of Rockford branch manager, has seen the numbers of people needing assistance rise dramatically over the last few years.

“We currently serve 13 counties in northern Illinois,” White said. “Six of those counties are ranked in the top 10 for unemployment in Illinois.”

White said the Northern Illinois Food Bank, 320 S. Avon St. in Rockford, had to go through several innovations to help with this increase.

“In 2006, we were serving 17,000 families, and now we’re looking at about 40,000 by the end of the fiscal year,” White said. “As a result, we brought in more people, we’ve expanded our transportation department and we’re working with stores like Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club.”

Jarrod Daab, senior development officer of Northern Illinois Food Bank, said with this increase, several members of the community are helping out.

“We’ve seen over the last few years a 35 percent increase, and that’s like many of the food banks around the country,” Daab said. “We really had to step up our efforts and go to new sources of food, but everyone in the community has been helping out because I think the economic decline is something everyone can relate to.”

The People’s Resource Center, 201 S. Naperville Road in Wheaton, serves the DuPage county and gets several of their food sources from the Northern Illinois Food Bank.

“We’ve had double digit increases in families the last two years,” said Melissa Travis, director of food services at the People’s Resource Center. “We now see about 2,800 families a month.

Travis also said the community has been a tremendous help to assist this rise.

“Right now we’re kind of holding our own, but the community has been really helpful,” Travis said. “If these trends keep up we may have difficulty meeting needs but right now we’re doing okay.”

All of the food banks agreed that one of the easiest ways to help is to either donate money or extra food.

“For every dollar that is eight pounds of food,” Daab said. “This is the equivalent of six meals.”