GALESBURG – A partnership between the Galesburg Community Foundation and the River Bend Food Bank has multiple benefits for Galesburg and communities across the region struggling to address food insecurity.
As announced in March, a facility on Main and Henderson Streets will become a regional hub for the River Bend Food Bank and also house FISH of Galesburg Food Pantry in a larger, more accessible facility.
River Bend Food Bank, a Davenport-based nonprofit, serves 23 counties in western Illinois and eastern Iowa by providing 300 partner organizations from pantries to people centers. elderly, food for their own missions and programs.
Of those communities, 115,000 people do not have enough food, said Mike Miller, president and CEO of River Bend.
“The sad thing is that it’s about 35,000 kids,” Miller said.
About 50 of River Bend’s partner organizations – those in Knox, Warren, Fulton, Hancock, Henderson, Henry, McDonough and Stark counties – will be served by the new regional hub in Galesburg.
This is River Bend’s second regional hub, in addition to its Davenport warehouse, following the opening of the first regional hub in Dubuque, Iowa, in 2019.
“We are now distributing 30% more food in Dubuque and Jackson counties,” Miller said.
An increase in the amount of food distributed to local organizations is also expected here.
Miller said the Galesburg project will have three main benefits.
First, pantries and other organizations in the area will be able to distribute more food.
For example, Miller said, a pantry in Canton receives a delivery from River Bend once a month, but still has to travel to Davenport to pick up food the other weeks.
“They just have to go to Galesburg and they can come more frequently,” Miller said.
Second, the regional hub in Galesburg could inspire new partnerships and programs provided by River Bend.
Finally, the additional space, improved location and the use of a much larger cooler and freezer shared with River Bend will allow FISH to better serve the community.
FISH President Diane Copeland said the Galesburg Pantry has continued to relocate for several years due to space issues and that he wants to be more accessible to the public.
“It’s the best possibility ever,” said Copeland. “It’s a huge victory for everyone.
With access to greater refrigeration and better storage, FISH will be able to offer more fresh fruits and vegetables and overall more nutritious food packaging for residents, Copeland said.
Josh Gibb, executive director and CEO of the Galesburg Foundation, said the project is moving fast.
“We are currently awaiting the final design and construction documents so that we can start bidding on the project as soon as possible,” Gibb said.
Once the bidding process is complete, the plan is to begin construction immediately and get River Bank and FISH on site.
“We’re motivated to get them out there as quickly as possible,” Gibb said.
In addition to a pending donation of an adjacent municipal property that will house the large cooler and freezer required for the project, this land will also have to be rezoned.
Galesburg City Council will vote on the donation of Graham Park – an undeveloped park at the entrance to the water services division facility next to the site – at its next meeting.
Gibb said the new facility is designed to meet the needs of River Bend and FISH.
“As they coexist, the design lends itself to efficient use of the entire square footage,” Gibb said.
After years of searching for the right location, the Galesburg Community Foundation purchased the former Rheinschmidt’s Carpet Center in December 2020 for $ 190,000.
In total, the foundation will invest around $ 1 million in the project.
The installation is approximately 14,000 square feet and the chiller to be added will be approximately 5,000 square feet.
FISH, currently located at 688 Hawthorne Court, has served the community since 1970.
In 2020, FISH provided food to 12,565 people in 5,267 households.
Gibb said the concept for the new facility dates back to when the Clinton Foundation conducted an initial community health needs assessment which was completed in 2017.
One of the factors outlined in this study’s Health Issues Initiative for Knox County was to improve healthy eating and food quality by increasing the number of food secure residents and improving education. nutritional.
The shared facility will be centrally located in a high traffic area with convenient access by public transport and ample parking.
Copeland said residents using public transportation to get to the current pantry have to take a couple of city buses and then walk another block to get to FISH.
It will also be located across the street from the relocated Illinois Department of Social Services office, 821 W. Main St., which may allow for better communication and collaboration to meet the dietary needs of the community.
“It will be convenient for people,” Copeland said. “Anything we can do to make life easier for everyone. “
Miller said that before the COVID-19 pandemic, the worst food insecurity in the region was after the 2008 economic recession.
Although organizations in the region have worked diligently over the intervening years to reduce food security and have been successful, the pandemic has increased the need by 50%, Miller said.
“It’s improved but it’s even worse than before COVID,” Miller said. “Right now we are about 10% higher than before COVID. “
River Bend Food Bank is working with food producers, manufacturers and retailers to save safe but surplus food that would otherwise be thrown away.
More information on River Bend Food Bank and FISH of Galesburg is online at: