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What’s The Difference Between a Food Bank and Food Pantry?

groceries in a grocery bag

What's The Difference Between a Food Bank and Food Pantry

Understandably, people often use the words food bank and food pantry interchangeably. However, there are subtle differences between the two organizations. Knowing the difference between a food pantry vs food banks in Northern Illinois can help you understand where you need to go to either receive free groceries or donate.

What Is a Food Bank?

A food bank is a non-profit organization that safely stores food to then be delivered to local food programs and agencies, like food pantries. Food banks vary in size, but all food banks serve the same purpose. They receive and store the food donated from local community partners, retailers, grocery stores, and more. After collection, food banks will inventory and redistribute supplies to local pantries, shelters, and soup kitchens. Northern Illinois Food Bank, a proud member of Feeding America, is a great example of a local food bank. With 250,000 meals served daily throughout 13 counties, Northern Illinois Food Bank and its partners have made a huge impact on the lives of Illinois families.

Food bank volunteers loading items into car
Food bank volunteer

What Is a Food Pantry?

While food banks are in charge of collecting and storing food items, food pantries are in charge of distributing them to local families in need. Food pantries can distribute more than just food items. Clothing and other household items may be available as well. So if your family needs free groceries—visit your local food pantry. My Pantry Express is a convenient, online option for northern Illinois families in need. In 2021, we received over 33,000 orders and in 2022 we received over 55,000 orders and counting. You can find locations that offer pick-up, delivery, or both. All you have to do is select a location, shop for your groceries online, and then choose a pickup location. Just be sure to submit orders three days before pick-up by 8 am.

Can Anyone Use a Food Pantry?

At My Pantry Express, we accept all families based on a self-identified need. In other words, we don’t ask for income, residency, SNAP eligibility, or any other criteria. We understand how difficult it can be to meet your basic needs and don’t want you to jump through hoops to feed your family. To find out more information, check here.

Food bank volunteers loading items into car

How Can You Help Your Local Community

Looking to make a difference in your community? Donation and volunteer opportunities are available. If you’d like to help distribute or pack orders at our center in Geneva, IL, sign up here. You can also donate to a local food pantry here. No matter which you choose, we, and your community, appreciate your support.

How To Find Food Pantries Near You

To find a My Pantry Express location near you, check here. Whether you need food or household supplies, you can find what you need online and pick it up from one of our locations. Some locations may be delivery only, so be sure to check all location information before placing your order. You’ll also see pick-up details such as where to enter and whether it’s a drive-thru.