Local grocers pitch in to feed struggling families

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At Meijer in northwest suburban Bloomingdale, a team leader scans chicken, ground beef and other meats before packing them up for donation to the Northern Illinois Food Bank. (WLS)

At Meijer in northwest suburban Bloomingdale, a team leader scans chicken, ground beef and other meats before packing them up for donation to the Northern Illinois Food Bank.

At the Jewel-Osco in Bartlett, lettuce, mushrooms and mixed vegetables that are fresh, but have reached their "sell by" date are on the way to the food bank.

"We'll save breads and cakes from our bakery, produce and packaged salads. Apples that may have bruises on them are still good to eat and certainly people who get that product appreciate it," Paul Brushenko, store director at Jewel-Osco, said.

The food bank says the fresh food also contributes to good health.

"We know that more than half of our hungry neighbors experience high blood pressure. One in four have diabetes. So the food recovery program brings these fresh items, fresh fruits and vegetables," Donna Lake, Northern Illinois Food Bank, said. "It helps them lead a healthy life."

After making rounds at several stores to recover food that would've been thrown out, the truck delivers it to a pantry in Hanover Township that's open and ready to distribute on the same day. The pantry in Hanover Township serves more 10,000 families each year.

"In the suburbs, the poverty is a little hidden. Most people live paycheck to paycheck and as soon as that paycheck gets cut off, now they are in poverty," Brian McGuire, Hanover Township supervisor, said.

Neighbors say they welcome the food that might otherwise have been wasted.

"It means that we get to eat. We get to eat," Betty Carbonara, food recipient, said. "If you don't have money to shop for food, where else do you go?"

The Northern Illinois Food Bank works with more than 300 suburban retailers to help provide meats and produce to people in need. The Greater Chicago Food Depository has similar partnerships with grocers throughout the city.

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