Northern Illinois Food Bank centers in Joliet and elsewhere get lift from Northwestern Medicine

Volunteers help out at South Suburban Center in Joliet

Alex Demos (right) joins his mother Sarah Demos, a Northwestern Medicine employee who lives in Palos Park, on Saturday as they wrap toothbrushes and toothpaste donated by Procter & Gamble, at the Northern Illinois Food Bank South Suburban Center in Joliet. Feb. 24, 2024.

Northwestern Medicine gave the Northern Illinois Food Bank a boost Saturday with a $100,000 donation and volunteer help that was welcomed in Joliet.

“It will be truly appreciated,” Steven Harold, processing coordinator at the food bank’s Joliet facility, told about 20 volunteers from Northwestern Medicine who were there to give their time after having given up gift certificates for the cause.

Northwestern Medicine employees were the inspiration for the $100,000 donation.

More than 5,000 employees opted to donate $15 grocery gift certificates they received as holiday gifts from their employer, generating more than $76,000 for local food banks, according to a new release from Northwestern Medicine. Northwestern Medicine, in turn, donated $100,000 each to Northern Illinois Food Bank and the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

Crates filled with cereal boxes await distribution from the Northern Illinois Food Bank South Suburban Center in Joliet. Feb. 24, 2024.

“Our employees made it clear that they’re committed to addressing food insecurity in the communities we serve, and it’s in their honor that we’re increasing Northwestern Medicine’s donation to provide access to nutritious food where it’s most needed,” Ann Hall, vice president of administration at Northwestern Medicine, said in the release.

Northwestern Medicine has provided contributions to Northern Illinois Food Bank since 2015.

The South Suburban Center at 171 S. Larkin Ave. in Joliet opened in 2018 and is one of four distribution centers for Northern Illinois Food Bank. The Joliet facility serves Will, Grundy, Kendall and Kankakee counties.

It has served an area previously not reached by Northern Illinois Food Bank, Harold said in his comments to Northwestern Medicine volunteers.

Steven Harold, processing coordinator at the Northern Illinois Food Bank South. Suburban Center in Joliet, tells volunteers from Northwestern Medicine on Saturday how their donations and volunteerism helps serve people in need. Feb. 24, 2024.

The South Suburban Center was opened with a plan to distribute 100,000 pounds of food in its first year, he said.

“At the end of 2018, we came back with 1.2 million pounds,” Harold said. “That’s how much they underestimated the level of need.”

Since 2018, 16 million pounds of food has been distributed from the Joliet center, he said.

Northern Illinois Food Bank has a network of 900 food pantries, soup kitchens and direct distribution programs that provides 82 million meals a year and serve more than 500,000 people a month, food bank President and CEO Julie Yurko said in the release.