On Tuesdays at 5 a.m. when many of us are still fast asleep, some families are already lining up at the Belvidere/Boone County Food Pantry on South Fifth Street in Capron. The doors do not open until 8 a.m., but Tuesday is food distribution day and people arrive early to secure their place in line. This past Tuesday, over 150 families were at the pantry to pick up food items.
The Belvidere/Boone County Food Pantry is a non-profit organization that consists of three buildings totaling around 18,600 square feet. The pantry does not receive any state or federal funding and therefore, must generate their own revenue and donations. As their slogan states, for many in the county they really are a “Miracle on Fifth Street.”
In November, the pantry had a record month, feeding more than 1,800 people and that does not include the help they provided to 37 other agencies as well. Executive Director, Linda Clark, said “I expect December to be even more, probably another record.” There are several ways the public can help, not just during the holidays, but year round.
Last year, the pantry had approximately 20,000 volunteer hours. In any given month, around 50-85 people volunteer their time at the pantry. That time can be anywhere from one hour a year to every day. As Ms. Clark says, “there are a lot of people that help us make a difference.”
The pantry is always in need of donations. In addition to monetary donations, the pantry recommends the following items.
Food, examples include:
- Pastas (such as macaroni and cheese, hamburger helper, etc.)
- Cereals (these go quickly and are expensive)
Non-Food, examples include:
- Toiletries and Hygiene Products (except for toilet paper)
- Clothing (in good condition)
- Clothes that are out of season and can’t be stored are shipped to developing countries.)
Seasonal Items, examples include:
- Toys (Now through Christmas each family is given two presents every Tuesday.)
- Coats for kids & adults (in good condition-It is only December and they are already out.)
The pantry has also opened their own recycling center as a way to generate funds. Businesses and individuals can drop off cardboard, aluminum cans, plastics and pallets to be recycled. This not only helps the environment by keeping these items out of landfills, but provides revenue for the pantry as well.
Field Trips/Animal Creations
Another way the pantry has found to generate revenue is to offer field trips to school chldren as well as other groups. The children get a tour of the facilities, including the recycling center where they get to see how the cardboard baler works and how to crush cans. They also receive a snack, gift bag and get to build their own “animal creation”. This is where the child gets to pick out their own animal in the pantry’s gift shop, stuff it, place a wish inside of it and receive a birth certificate for the animal.
The cost is $12 per child and the proceeds help the pantry meet the needs of those living in Boone County. Ms. Clark says that this “teaches them (the children) the importance of volunteering and helping those in need” and she adds, “we have found that kids absolutely love doing this.”
How to Receive Assistance from the Belvidere/Boone County Food Pantry:
If families find themselves in need of assistance from the pantry, they will need to follow the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines. This means on their first visit to the pantry they will need to bring a picture ID, two forms of proof of address showing their name and a current date (such as mail or bills), and they will need to know the birth dates of everyone in the household and the amount of money that comes into the household. All of this information is entered on a required form.
Clients may then choose pre-packaged boxes of food or they may “shop” for their own food. This helps ensure that the client receives food they like and therefore, will not waste it by throwing it out.
The pantry also offers assistance by working with organizations like the Janet Wattles Center, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and area schools. In addition, they can help clients apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.
For more information about the Belvidere/Boone County Food Pantry call 815-569-1571, stop by their location at 200 S. Fifth Street in Capron (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday) or visit their website at www.bbcfoodpantry.com.