Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between the Northern Illinois Food Bank and a food pantry or soup kitchen at my church, school etc.?

The Northern Illinois Food Bank is a distribution hub to over 900 food pantries and soup kitchens throughout the 13 counties we serve.  Hungry neighbors visit food pantries every day to receive the food they need.  Alternatively, hungry neighbors do not directly visit the Food Bank.  However, Northern Illinois Food Bank provides each food pantry with food for our hungry neighbors. Pantries order food from the Food Bank to ensure that hungry neighbors are receiving a balance of items they need and have access to nutrition. Many pantries, for instance, may be able to provide canned goods from donations or food drives, but it is much more difficult for them to receive meat or milk; so, pantries order groceries from Northern Illinois Food Bank based on the need in their communities.  

Which is better to donate, food or funds?

Short answer:  Funds to Northern Illinois Food Bank, Food to Food Pantries.  Here's why...

When you donate a can of soup to the Food Bank, that can of soup is sent to a food pantry to be given to a hungry neighbor.  BUT -  it takes resources in the form of volunteer labor, paid staff time and fuel to get that can of soup to a food pantry and into the the hands of a hungry neighbor.  Because that can of soup will end up being shipped to a food pantry after you donate it to the Food Bank, anyway, it is better to donate small food drives (1,000 - 2,000 lbs of food or less) directly to a food pantry near you.  It is also easier to coordinate the logistics of dropping off donations to a food pantry than it is to get your food drive to one of Northern Illinois Food Bank's 4 locations.  Donating food to food pantries alleviates the costs of ordering non-perishable items from Northern Illinois Food Bank, allowing pantries to focus on ordering perishable items like dairy products or meat.  It is better to donate funds to Northern Illinois Food Bank as it allows us to purchase food that food banks really need and allocate resources to ensuring each community food pantry is able to receive dairy, eggs, meat, produce etc.  Plus, we have buying power that allows us to do more with $1 than you might when you go to the store to purchase canned goods for a food drive.  Every $1 donated equals $8 in nutritious groceries for our hungry neighbors!

I started a Food & Fund Drive Team, why do I also have a personal Food & Fund Drive page?

This is a system requirement, but it is also so we can track your personal fundraising progress at the same time as we track your team.  Think of it like a baseball team:  you not only want to know the stats of the team overall, but the stats of each player.  While people can give gifts directly to your team's page, the idea is for each person on the team to being doing their own fundraising, which contributes to the overall success of the team.  Feel free to choose to promote your team page only, if you'd prefer one easy way to track your team's progress.  

What if I just want to collect food?

Great!  We absolutely appreciate your support and efforts to feed your hungry neighbors.  You will still automatically generate a fundraising page when you register your food drive, but fundraising is completely optional.  If you prefer to collect food only, just ignore the fundraising page and have fun collecting. 

Can you pick up my food drive?

Unfortunately we do not have the capacity to pick up food drives.  

Where do I get boxes / posters for my food drive?

A PDF poster is available in the Resources section of our website. You can print these posters to display throughout your drive. 

We do not offer boxes for your food drive. Please use boxes with a sturdy bottom that can be easily transported. 

I am doing a food drive that is part of an event, can someone from the Food Bank attend and speak?  

While we would love to be able to attend every event, we are a small staff covering a large territory and we are unable to make it to everything to which we are invited (a nice problem to have!).  We are happy to provide resources and talking points about hunger in your region and the impact your food drive makes on hungry neighbors, but we must use our discretion when agreeing to attend events, especially those that are outside of business hours.  Please reach out to Molly Speckman at to inquire about food bank staff attendance at your event.  

I still have questions.  Who can I talk to?

Molly Speckman at or 630-443-6910 x196