Feed the Love: Northern Illinois Food Bank meal distribution up 50% due to COVID pandemic needs

ByYukare Nakayama WLS logo
Thursday, December 16, 2021
Northern Illinois Food Bank volunteer says helping those in need more important than never
Stanley Czaja has been a volunteer at the Northern Illinois Food Bank since 2019.

GENEVA, Ill. (WLS) -- In a time of uncertainty with an uptick in food disparity, volunteers at the Northern Illinois Food Bank are making sure food is packed up and shipped out to families in need.

Six days a week for the past year, Stanley Czaja has been dedicating his free time to loading up and driving fresh produce and packed goods for the Northern Illinois Food Bank.

"The feeling that you get driving home after from a day that you've been able to help a lot of people and you've been able to five, six, seven truckloads of food-the feeling you can't beat driving home," said Czaja.

Czaja is one of several volunteers at the food bank. Because of the pandemic, Czaja said his role is more important than ever.

"This is, it's crazy. Some days are crazy I think we're doing triple of the amount of food we'd do this time last year," said Czaja.

Maeven Sipes is the Vice President of Philanthropy for the Northern Illinois Food Bank. She said they are currently distributing three thousand meals a day.

"2020 has been an unprecedented year for so many people and the food bank has been a part of that. It's been a challenging year, its been a great year in terms of what we have seen. We are distributing 50% more meals than we've done this time last year," said Sipes.

The Northern Illinois Food Bank serves 13 counties and is partnered up with over 900 food pantries and feeding programs. Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday Czaja and other volunteers deliver pounds of food to Loaves and Fishes, a distributing partner.

"Last year, 60% of the food we distributed came through the relationship that we have with Northern Illinois Food Bank in their direct connect program with local grocers," said Mike Havala, CEO of Loaves and Fishes.

Czaja said the most rewarding part of the job is knowing the impact he and the other volunteers are making in the lives of so many.

"Because of this pandemic there is a lot of people that are asking for help for the first time in their lives and as human beings that's probably the hardest things we can do, is ask for help," said Czaja.

You can help Feed the Love by donating to our virtual food drive.

If you're in need of food, you can call 773-247-FOOD or click here to locate a food pantry near you.