The Geneva-based Northern Illinois Food Bank got some welcome assistance last week as a dozen volunteers from Amazon lent their expertise at its newest warehouse.
Amazon visitors not only sorted food, they also shared the company’s distribution and organizational expertise at the June 12 event at the NIFB’s new South Suburban Center in Joliet.
“One of the things I’m really grateful to Amazon for is that they’re coming in right at the start and helping us,” said Julie Yurko, Northern Illinois Food Bank president and CEO. “We’ve got a great team at the food bank, we’re a non-profit, they’re Amazon, so for them to share their expertise, their skill-set, with our team here right at the beginning so that we can come out of the gate strong and fast and efficient is just awesome.”
Amazon also presented a check for $10,000 to help the Food Bank provide more food to people in need.
The donation will go a long way.
“(For) every dollar given to us we can distribute $8 worth of groceries and so that represents $80,000 worth of groceries,” Yurko said.
This isn’t the first time Amazon has been involved with the Northern Illinois Food Bank. The company has donated products since 2016, mostly from the Amazon Fresh warehouse for a total of up to two million pounds of food so far.
The Northern Illinois Food Bank is the largest food depository in Illinois, covering 13 counties and serving about a half a million people in need. They serve about 70,000 people every week.
The 18,000-square foot facility in Joliet opened on May 4. NIFB has a 150,000-sq. ft. main facility in Geneva, which acts as the “hub-and-spoke” for their three smaller facilities, the other two in Rockford and Park City.
“That is our goal here, to distribute more meals out of the center,” Yurko said. “We can also welcome in volunteers and we know that we can process over a million more pounds of food when we have the additional center. So, not only can we get more food out, but we can get the food prepared quicker to go out to our neighbors in need.”
Govind Singh serves as the Site Leader for Amazon and said he was proud to be involved with helping streamline the operations at the Food Bank. He explained that they primarily focus on three things:
“We look at things from speed, time and quality,” he said. “How can we make a process faster using less resources so there is less impact on the business and easier for the volunteers or associates? In terms of time, it’s about how you can make it a little bit faster so that at the same time we can process better,”
Amazon employees were so excited to sign up for this event that Singh says the sheet was filled up within a day with many asking how they could contribute. He said Amazon makes an effort to integrate themselves in local communities and the team is glad to share their knowledge.
Singh anticipates that there will be many more events ahead and has found that Amazon’s business practices coincide well with that of the non-profit:
“It’s huge for us in order to make sure that we don’t pass on any defect to our customers and we take the same mentality everywhere we go,” he said.
NIFB picks up fresh produce, dairy and shelf-stable foods from the Amazon Fresh warehouse five days a week. The totes of food are then sorted by specially trained volunteers at the Geneva center, which are then distributed to the smaller facilities like the new location in Joliet.
“Amazon is giving their time, they’re making a financial investment, they’re giving us food, they’re giving us their expertise. It is like the trifecta of fabulous,” Yurko said.
According to Yurko, 77 percent of the people in counties they serve are working families, while many aren’t able to secure year-round employment for various reasons. She believes that hunger is a solvable issue with enough will.
“I want to make sure people understand that hunger is real and that hunger is right here in every one of our communities,” Yurko said, “ I want them to know that we are touching 80 million pounds of food… all it takes is all of us coming together and getting involved. There is enough will in Will County”
The Food Bank is always always in need of people to volunteer at any of their locations. To learn more about how to volunteer, visit their website at www.solvehungertoday.org/volunteer.
— Amazon offers assistance as Northern Illinois Food Bank expands —-