Midwest Food Bank responds to increased need

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Credit: "Midwest Food Bank Year End 2020" video screenshot

Volunteers fill boxes of food at Midwest Food Bank in Normal. Increased unemployment caused by COVID-19 meant that the packing and distribution of food was essential.

Rising unemployment rates and a record-breaking hurricane season increased food insecurity nationally in 2020, with more people relying on food pantry donations than in recent years. 

Midwest Food Bank, which distributes over $23 million of food each monthly, has found the increased demand for food and a decrease in volunteers challenging this year. 

The over 2,000 non-profit organizations and food pantries that Midwest Food Bank serves are asking for “anywhere from 20-50% more food than what they did before COVID began,” Tara Ingham, the executive director of the organization’s Normal location, said. 

In a typical year, Ingham said the Normal location hosts approximately 10,000 volunteers. But this year, 5,000 people have given their time. 

“What’s amazing,” Ingham said, “is that those 5,000 volunteers are doing the same amount of work as the 10,000 did last year.”

The dedicated service of those volunteers “has really kept us afloat right now,” Ingham said. 

in addition to serving the local area, Midwest Food Bank has aided communities struck by COVID, wildfires, and hurricanes. “We have sent over a hundred semi truckloads full of support this year,” Ingham said.

Ingham herself first became associated with Midwest Food Bank as a volunteer, spending nights and weekends at the Midwest Food Bank location in Morton while working a full time job. She encourages people who are considering volunteering to give it a shot. “There is something special that happens when you can come together with a community of others to serve people in need,” she said. “You really feel a purpose from the time that you’ve spent.”

Normal Community junior Prapul Arumilli is one of the 5,000 who volunteered at the food bank in 2020. Arumilli, along with other NCHS’s Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) chapter members, participated in a two-hour service project — packing boxes with food that would ultimately be distributed to families in need.

Arumilli complimented the food bank on their organization and process, saying that it enabled the group to accomplish more with their time than other FBLA volunteering opportunities. 

Those interested in volunteering at Midwest Food Bank, located in North Normal off of Northtown Rd, can sign up on the organization’s Facebook page.