Leila Rajput
Leila Rajput and other Rockford IceHogs front office staff help pack meals on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023, at Northern Illinois Food Bank’s Northwest Center in Rockford. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)
By Kevin Haas
Rock River Current
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ROCKFORD — Staff from the Rockford IceHogs front office, as well as the team’s mascot, Hammy, volunteered Tuesday to pack and sort meals at Northern Illinois Food Bank’s Northwest Center.

The volunteer shift at the Northwest Center, 765 Research Parkway, helped prepare hundreds of boxes full of stable food items for delivery to families. The work was also intended to raise awareness about an increase in need food bank’s have experienced with rising grocery costs and other inflationary pressures.

“It’s important for us to give back to the community in a number of different ways. We’re always looking for opportunities to do that,” said Ryan Snider, Rockford IceHogs president of business operations.

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The Hogs’ group packed 576 shelf stable boxes of food for people experiencing food insecurity in Winnebago County. That’s 10,368 pounds of food, and it will provide 8,640 meals to local families in need.

“We provide entertainment to the community. It’s really a discretionary service that we’re providing. The service that’s being provided here is essentially,” Snider said. “So for us to be able to get involved in something outside of what we do that’s essential, that’s needed in the community and we can play a small role in that, 100% that’s what we’re looking for and what we’re trying to do.”

Martin Johnson and Ryan Snider and other Rockford IceHogs front office staff help pack meals on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023, at Northern Illinois Food Bank in Rockford. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)

The food bank provides 82 million meals to residents across 13 counties. Last year, it distributed 8.2 million meals in Winnebago County alone. About 55,000 people are served each month in Winnebago County. The food bank said need has nearly doubled since the pandemic.

“There are families that live paycheck to paycheck,” said Todd Reuber, manager of the Northwest Center. “By providing that food and the groceries that they need to help them get through some tough times, that will help them in other parts of their life.”

The food bank served 2.4 million meals last year through its Winnebago Community Market, a grocery shop open Thursdays and Fridays inside the Northwest Center.

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Reuber said the need has risen at the market, too. There has been a roughly 38% increase in guests at the Winnebago Community Market since the first half of the year, Reuber said.

“We can help relieve some of that pressure,” Reuber said. “If we can provide them some relief by giving them groceries so they can feed their families it can free up some funds to make other important purchases.”

How to help

An anonymous benefactor is matching donations to Northern Illinois Food Bank this month. You can donate by going to solvehungertoday.org. Each dollar donated to the food bank can help purchase $8 worth of food due to the nonprofit’s partnership with other organizations. That means that with the matching donation, every dollar you give can help provide $16 worth of food.

You can also sign up to volunteer with the Northern Illinois Food Bank by going HERE.

Mike Peck, right, and other members of the Rockford IceHogs front office staff, help pack meals on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023, at the Northern Illinois Food Bank Northwest Center in Rockford. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)

This article is written by Kevin Haas. Email him at khaas@rockrivercurrent.com or follow him on X at @KevinMHaas or Instagram @thekevinhaas and Threads @thekevinhaas

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