November marks the first anniversary of the Galesburg branch of River Bend Food Bank, Galesburg Community Foundation’s largest Mission Impact Investment.
Located at the corner of Henderson and Main streets in Galesburg, the food bank makes it more efficient for 50 food pantries in eight counties to get the food they need for their communities. “Having the branch provides access to more food more frequently for the pantries to then distribute to hungry people,” says Nancy Renkes, President & CEO of River Bend Food Bank.
A food bank collects and distributes food in bulk, while a food pantry is a smaller, community-level organization that directly distributes food to individuals and families in need. Together, food banks and food pantries help to address food insecurity in communities.
Since it opened, more than 1.5 million pounds of food have been transported from Davenport to the Galesburg food bank branch for distribution. “The reason that number is important is because food pantries didn’t have to drive all the way to Davenport to get food,” said Renkes. “It stretches dollars and improves efficiency.”
Helping Hands Food Pantry in Roseville is one of the 50 food pantries benefiting from having a food bank closer to their community. Flint McCullough has been organizing drivers to pick up food for the pantry for about four years. “It’s just a hop, skip, and jump for us to get to Galesburg instead of Davenport,” says McCullough. A while back, he says that there was a day when produce hadn’t yet been delivered when he made a pick-up at the branch. “I just went back the next day,” he said. “It was an easy deal.”
The new food bank doesn’t just bring food closer to the pantries, it also provides a closer location for large-scale food donations from local manufacturers, distributors, and retailers, like Smithfield Foods, Knox County Pork Producers Association, and Sitka Salmon Shares. “In the last year, 336,661 pounds of food came directly to the Galesburg Branch,” said Renkes. “Without the Galesburg food bank branch, much of that food may have never made it to local food pantries.”
In December 2020, the Community Foundation purchased and renovated the old Rheinschmidts Carpet Center, leasing the building to River Bend Food Bank and creating a steady, predictable financial return that the Community Foundation uses for grantmaking. The project is called a Mission Impact Investment because it uses the Community Foundation’s investment portfolio to generate both a financial return and social impact. “We knew how important this initiative was to the region, which is why we made the investment to make it happen,” says Joshua Gibb, President and CEO of Galesburg Community Foundation.
One of the food pantries seeing a huge benefit from the Galesburg location is FISH of Galesburg, which is subleasing space for their food pantry from River Bend. “People couldn’t find us, even with GPS,” says Diane Copeland, FISH President, of their previous location in Hawthorne Center. “There were people that needed our services who had to take three buses and then walk blocks to get to us. It was crowded and we didn’t have adequate freezer or refrigerator space, so we were limited in the amount of fresh produce or frozen protein that we could provide.”
She says the new location is everything they were looking for in a pantry. “We are accessible and can serve more people. We have plenty of freezer and cooler space, so we can also offer healthier selections to our clients.“
The food pantry has already served 17,000 individuals this year and Copeland projects that number to be close to 22,000 by the end of the year, compared to 11,500 individuals served in 2022.
“It can be hard for people to walk through that door when they need emergency food assistance, but it’s so bright and welcoming here,” says Copeland. “It’s making this a better, healthier community for all its residents, and it wouldn’t have happened without Galesburg Community Foundation.”