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How You Can Help End Food Insecurity in Illinois

groceries in a grocery bag

How You Can Help End Food Insecurity in Illinois

Ending hunger in Northern Illinois is no small job. Communities must come together to get families the food and supplies they need. From volunteering at food banks or distribution centers to donating to good causes and writing to your local representative—there’s no shortage of ways you can help. Read on to learn how to end food insecurity in Northern Illinois communities.

Who Is at Risk for Hunger in Illinois

From 2017-2019, around 10% of all Illinois households reported experiencing food insecurity. This percentage is slightly below the national average (11.1%) and still is over 2% lower than it was from 2011-2013. It’s a positive step forward, but it doesn’t mean the mission of ending hunger is over. The populations most at risk for experiencing hunger or food insecurity are Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black households and lower-income households (below the 185% poverty threshold. Compared to non-Hispanic white households, Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black households experience food insecurity at twice the rate.

woman holding a crate of food at a food pantry

What Causes Food Insecurity in Illinois Communities

Many Illinois families are facing hunger due to poverty resulting from low income or unemployment. Other families may have few employment opportunities or simply cannot afford daycare for their children. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn felt across the country made food insecurity and employment situations worse. According to the Illinois Department of Human Services, the number of children across Illinois who face food insecurity tripled among households with children during the pandemic. Several other things contribute to food insecurity in Illinois communities, such as:

Race and Ethnicity


Household Income


Cost of Living

Lack of Affordable Housing

How Effective Are Illinois Initiatives at Solving Hunger?

Illinois initiatives like Northern Illinois Food Bank and My Pantry Express (MPX) are progressing in the fight against food insecurity. In 2021, MPX received over 33,000 orders from families in need. We’ve already eclipsed that total, receiving well over 55,000 orders in 2022. With each order fulfilled, we’re doing our part in helping end hunger in Northern Illinois.

Hurdles To Providing Food

Providing food for families isn’t as easy. Some government restrictions make it harder for food banks and pantries to distribute nutritious food. A great example of this was highlighted during the pandemic when strict social distancing rules made it difficult for families in need to access food. Along with social distancing rules, the number of volunteers available to help plummeted from the ongoing pandemic. Language and cultural differences represent barriers that Northern Illinois families face. It’s difficult to access or know where to go if all the information about food banks is in a language other than the one you speak.

Food bank volunteers loading items into car
Foodbank volunteer

Volunteer Opportunities in Illinois

Getting involved makes a huge impact. Interested in helping pack orders for distribution? MPX has weekly opportunities at our distribution center in Geneva, IL. We also have several other volunteer locations and days here.


Don’t have time to volunteer but still want to contribute to ending hunger in Northern Illinois? No problem. Your donations are welcome.

Food pantry donations

Contacting Local Representatives

Your local government officials influence where resources go. Calling or writing them a letter pushing for policies that would help get families the food and supplies they need can help them understand how important it is to their constituents.

Looking for a Food Bank To Donate to in Illinois? Make a Donation Today!

Eager to make an impact? We’re always accepting donations and volunteers to help us feed Illinois residents. Whether you donate or volunteer, you’re making a difference in the lives of your community members.

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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.