Feed the Love: Northern Illinois Food Bank's first hospital food pantry launches in Kankakee

KANKAKEE, Ill. (WLS) -- "Everybody deserves great quality healthcare, everybody deserves a meal in their stomach," said Phil Kambic, President & CEO, Riverside Healthcare.

Health experts with Riverside Healthcare in Kankakee said there's a direct correlation between health and hunger.

"When you're looking at trying to manage your disease process and balancing food insecurity it can be a daunting task," Sharon McNeil, Northern Illinois Food Bank Director of Community Nutrition Programs.

To address the issue, Riverside teamed up with the Northern Illinois Food Bank to launch the first hospital-based food pantry in Northern Illinois, in conjunction with mobile food drives.

"It seemed like the first step of prevention, not only managing chronic diseases, but prevent chronic diseases within families in our community," Dawn Willbarger, Vice President of Riverside Medical Group.

According to Riverside leaders, one-third of households in Kankakee care for a family member with high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease and many of them don't have access to or struggle paying for nutritious foods. So, the office screens patients for need during appointments.

"I manage health communities, so we're looking for a total package, and this is giving them than," Sharon McNeil, Director of Community Nutrition Programs.
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