September 17, 2012
by Dylan Conn

We had to say goodbye to our summer intern, Dylan Conn as he makes his way back to finish school at Stanford. He wrote about his visit to the Northern Illinois Foodbank in the suburbs of Chicago.

I've been working at Feeding America's national office for a couple months now, but finally had the opportunity to visit one of our network food banks last week. The Northern Illinois Food Bank serves 13 counties and distributed 40 million pounds of food last year. I visited their warehouse in Geneva, IL one morning last week where staff and volunteers were working hard to prepare food to send out to the thousands of people in need in Northern Illinois.

I was immediately struck by the size of the warehouse — this 147,000 square foot facility has a refrigerator so big that grocery stores are jealous! Even better, the warehouse is a LEED Gold certified building, meaning energy savings will enable the food bank to feed even more people every year. There are over 200 food banks in the Feeding America network, but I don't think people realize that food banks are these huge warehouses that distribute food to hundreds of smaller agencies, such as the small food pantries that we normally think of. The Northern Illinois Food Bank alone provides food to over 600 partner agencies.

The best part of my visit to the food bank was seeing the volunteers in action. It was a weekday morning, but there were a couple dozen volunteers working hard to sort food to get it out to people in need. It was interesting to see the diversity of the volunteers. One group was volunteering as part of a group from their work, and others were individual volunteers who simply come to the food bank to donate their time. One man I spoke to was a former engineer who has been volunteering at the food bank two mornings per week for the past four years. His wife was happy that it got him out of the house, he said. I've come to realize how big of an impact volunteers like these have on the millions of Americans who struggle with hunger, and I hope to volunteer at my local food bank from time to time when I return to college next month.

Getting out of the office and visiting a food bank helped to give me a better understanding of all that Feeding America and our network of food banks do to help alleviate hunger in America, as well as the number of people involved in fighting hunger. Feeding America is a strong army of staff and volunteers fighting hunger across the United States, and I'm glad I get to be a part of that army.

Tags: Food Bank Network

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