How Northern Illinois Food Bank has helped communities for 40 years and counting

ByKay Cesinger WLS logo
Sunday, April 9, 2023
Our Chicago Part 1: Northern Illinois Food Bank's 40th anniversary
Looking for local food banks? The Northern Illinois Food Bank has been helping communities for 40 years.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- In 1983, Sister Rosemarie Burian founded what would become the Northern Illinois Food Bank. She brought together a small group with a simple goal, to help solve the problem of hunger in the Chicago suburbs.

She shared that, "It's not what's in your pocket, but what's in your heart that expresses life."

During its first month, the food bank delivered 7,000 pounds of food. Now, it's part of a system that provides 78 million meals every year.

"We all started with Sister Rosemarie," said Julie Yurko, president and CEO of the Northern Illinois Food Bank. "She was a Wheaton Franciscan nun. She was working at St. Mark's Catholic Church in Wheaton and saw the need. She had her parishioners coming to us, and they didn't have enough food. And, one morning, during her morning meditation, she felt called to start a food bank."

Now, 40 years later, the Northern Illinois Food Bank provides 250,000 meals every day across 13 counties. The people and families helped by the food bank are part of a larger picture of hunger in our nation.

WATCH: Our Chicago Part 2

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that more than 34 million people are food insecure across the country.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that more than 34 million people are food insecure across the country.

"What food insecurity means, how it is defined by our country is a lack of consistent access to enough food for every person so they can live a happy, healthy, active life," said Yurko, "It can be very much a temporary situation. You might lose your job. You might have a health condition that leads you to need some help. You can also be a working family, you can be working multiple jobs and still experience food insecurity because of inflation and rising costs. Food insecurity is also financial insecurity. And, that's why we're here to help our neighbors."

But, Yurko said many people who need help don't know about the food bank.

"So we have a new food finder map. It's a digital tool and it's on our website It's a game changer. Neighbors seeking help can go in, they can enter in their zip code, their address. They can look at schedules for food pantries and other distributions and they can find easily food assistance right near their home. We also have My Pantry Express, which is an online food pantry where neighbors can go and order exactly what they want and they can pick it up at a local and convenient location or they can have the groceries delivered to their home."

For more information on the Northern Illinois Food Bank, visit or call 844-600-SNAP.