Volunteers unpack food received at Helping Hands of Roseville food pantry.

Exploring innovative solutions to support food pantries

When people come together, it’s easier to not only uncover problems, but to find solutions.

That’s been the case for the Hunger Collaborative, a group of more than 30 nonprofits brought together by Galesburg Community Foundation to combat the root causes of hunger in our region.

“Leaders from these organizations meet regularly to discuss challenges and develop projects to address food insecurity,” said Jillian Isaacson, Director of Grants and Programs at Galesburg Community Foundation. “It was at these meetings that we saw just how much our local food pantries are currently struggling.”

Increasing food costs are resulting in higher usage for families that can no longer afford groceries. At Jamieson Community Center in Monmouth, the number of people coming to the center for food increased 91% from 2022 to 2023.

This increased demand, combined with higher food costs, is depleting food pantry cash reserves. At FISH of Galesburg, the pantry almost doubled the amount of money spent on food last year.

“Now, more than ever, it’s crucial for us to come together and explore innovative solutions to ensure that food pantries in our region have the resources needed to continue their critical mission of providing nourishment to those in need,” said Joshua Gibb, President & CEO of Galesburg Community Foundation. “For this reason, we invited local food pantries to come together to discuss the obstacles they’re facing and opportunities to work collaboratively.”

Linda Wastyn of Wastyn & Associates was invited by the Community Foundation to facilitate a series of discussions with food pantries in Knox, Warren, and Henderson counties. The first session in January focused on the current state of pantries in the region, what barriers are affecting fundraising efforts, and what opportunities are possible for sustainable fundraising in the future. The second two-day session was developed based on the findings of the discussion held in January. Content included fundraising principles, practices tailored to food pantries in our geographic area, and time to strategize a collaborative fundraising plan.

A crucial partner in the sessions was River Bend Food Bank, which provides food to many of the food pantries in the region. Because of their relationship with food suppliers and retailers, the Food Bank can provide up to five meals for every $1 donated.

Nancy Renkes, President of the Food Bank, talked with the participating food pantries about how the Food Bank and food pantries could unify efforts to raise awareness of the issues they face, write grants, and raise funds to purchase food. “If we work collaboratively, we’ll be much more efficient and have a much stronger voice,” said Renkes to the representatives of the participating food pantries. “If we can go into this bigger, bolder, and more strategically, it helps us serve you better. That’s really our goal, to make sure you have enough food to serve hungry people.”

“I am so relieved,” said Julie Meloan of the Family Outreach Center in Henderson. “We’re always thinking, ‘Are we going to be able to keep doing this?’ So, hearing what you’re saying, I’m almost in tears because this can be so much easier.”

These sessions are the first of what will be an ongoing collaboration between River Bend Food Bank and local pantries. “The Community Foundation is invested in helping these hardworking organizations find the best ways to feed hungry people in our region and to shorten the line for food through our work with the Hunger Collaborative,” said Gibb. “We’re committed to this journey.”

You can support initiatives to combat the root causes of hunger in the region by making a gift to the Hunger Collaborative.

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Haley Sloss

Charitable Giving Coordinator

Short Bio

Haley provides support to enhance the function and success of the Charitable Giving and Affiliate Teams. She ensures donors receive a personal approach to philanthropy through outstanding customer service by supporting charitable giving for donors and fund holders across the state.