ROCHELLE — A Friday afternoon donation made by the White Rock Township is just one of many that the Rochelle Christian Food Pantry receives regularly these days.
“The township tries to support different places in the community [especially since COVID] and so many not working…we decided to do this this year,” White Rock Township trustee Lorraine Hubbard said.
Like most monetary donations, the funds are used to purchase pantry necessities when the demand arises. But monetary donations aren’t the only donations that the pantry receives.
“Once in a while semis will come in and drop off some food...[Recently] Rainwaters brought in some sweetcorn, MightyVine brings in some tomatoes, Tyson helps by bringing some of their stuff – it’s kind of a community effort so we really appreciate that,” Rochelle Christian Food Pantry board member Carol Hayenga said.
And, according to food pantry manager TyAnne Unger, every donation has been a blessing.
“We have been very, very blessed right now but on the other hand, four weeks ago I ordered $2,200 worth of food because we were out of everything. Usually I order $500. I try to stay around $500. But if you don’t order it when they have it you lose it. So I was able to get a lot of things we were really low on. Now all those things are gone and the last order I ordered $113 [worth]. It’s a week-by-week,” Unger explained.
Food for the pantry is ordered through the Northern Illinois Food Bank. For every $1 that is donated to the Rochelle Christian Food Pantry, approximately $7 or $8 worth of food is purchased from the NIFB.
Unger said that while there is always a need for donations it is better to call ahead to inquire if the pantry has any specific needs.
“It’s better to call and ask us what we need because right now we’ve got a lot of stuff but then there’s things like vegetables and peanut butter and tuna fish that we’re low on. So those are the major things that we could use right now,” she said.
Currently, the food pantry is serving the community on Tuesday and Friday each week using a drive-thru concept.
“We do drive-thru now. People used to go in and shop but we can’t do that anymore with COVID,” Hayenga explained “They can shop a few things – the bread and some of the produce – but we do that on a limited [basis], like one or two at a time.”
The pantry has also begun seeing a larger number of people served as well over the past several months.
“In the last month we’re a little bit higher,” Hayenga said.
“Our numbers used to be between 38 to 40 now they’re like 50-something to 60-something,” Unger said. “Everyday [donation days] we’re having about five or six new people come in.”
Even with the higher number of people coming to receive donations of food at the pantry there are times when there is a surplus of some foods; especially when unexpected donations are given.
“Everyone’s been extremely generous. The thing that is probably the hardest for us to get out is when we have surplus – such as all of this [bread] and it’s free and if people don’t take it, we have to dump it,” Unger said.
The surplus is more prevalent on days when the pantry receives an unexpected donation from a truck driver who would rather donate the food to the pantry than throw the perfectly good food in a dumpster.
“But that is from day-to-day…we never know when or what we may get,” Hayenga said.
Unger explained that in those instances representatives try to put the information on the pantry’s Facebook page to inform people of the extra food that is available.
However, staff is able to save more of the surplus now than they were previously.
“Thru grants the pantry was able to purchase a new walk-in freezer. The space is approximately double what was available before. There is also a portion that is solely refrigerated space,” Unger said. “That’s really been a blessing. Because of this refrigerator, we are able to take that [donations from truckers] now… before we couldn’t. So that’s a real blessing plus we have those three refrigerators.”
Anyone needing food services offered by the Rochelle Christian Food Pantry may come Tuesday and Friday from 1 to 3:30 p.m. to receive food. Recipients are required to bring an ID and a piece of mail with a current address.
Information can also be found on the pantry’s Facebook page at Rochelle Christian Food Pantry or by calling 815-562-6654.
The pantry is located at 770 Lincoln Avenue in Rochelle.