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updated: 10/23/2011 8:07 AM

Food bank showcases new headquarters in Geneva

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  • Volunteer supervisor Scott Heinzman talks to Pin Hwang, left, and Emilie Chain of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, in Darien, on Saturday in the warehouse of the new Northern Illinois Food Bank in Geneva.

      Volunteer supervisor Scott Heinzman talks to Pin Hwang, left, and Emilie Chain of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, in Darien, on Saturday in the warehouse of the new Northern Illinois Food Bank in Geneva.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Volunteer supervisor Scott Heinzman talks to Pin Hwang, left, and Emilie Chain of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, in Darien, on Saturday in the warehouse of the new Northern Illinois Food Bank in Geneva.

      Volunteer supervisor Scott Heinzman talks to Pin Hwang, left, and Emilie Chain of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, in Darien, on Saturday in the warehouse of the new Northern Illinois Food Bank in Geneva.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Volunteer Peggy Benzin of Carol Stream shows Mary E. Gustafson how boxes are weighed in the processing room at the new Northern Illinois Food Bank location in Geneva on Saturday.

      Volunteer Peggy Benzin of Carol Stream shows Mary E. Gustafson how boxes are weighed in the processing room at the new Northern Illinois Food Bank location in Geneva on Saturday.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Executive chef Dave Miller with Chef By Request catering offers a cooking demonstration on how to prepare healthy meals on a budget at the new Northern Illinois Food Bank location on Saturday in Geneva.

      Executive chef Dave Miller with Chef By Request catering offers a cooking demonstration on how to prepare healthy meals on a budget at the new Northern Illinois Food Bank location on Saturday in Geneva.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • The Northern Illinois Food Bank opened its new location in Geneva to the public for tours on Saturday.

      The Northern Illinois Food Bank opened its new location in Geneva to the public for tours on Saturday.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

 
 

Head bent, her dark hair falling over her eyes, 12-year-old Alexis Miller wrote intently on a blue piece of paper.

"I am making a card for people that need food," she explained. "I thought that maybe it would make them a little bit happier."

Alexis and her two siblings attended an open house on Saturday afternoon at the Northern Illinois Food Bank's new headquarters in Geneva.

The free event featured a tour of the facility, kids' activities, cooking demonstrations and exercise classes.

Their mother, Pam Miller of Elgin, said the family has been getting assistance from the Hanover Township Food Pantry for about a year. The food bank distributes goods through a network of more than 600 partner agencies in 13 counties.

"I'm a single mom. It helps a lot," said Miller, who works part-time. "But there are still a lot of people who don't know that this is out there."

The food bank's new digs have the same footprint as the old location -- 144,000 square feet -- but nearly three times the ceiling clearance and more than double the freezer capacity, said Northern Illinois Food Bank President and CEO Peter Schaefer.

Last year, the food bank distributed about 35 million pounds of food, but more is always needed, especially produce, Schaefer said. "A lot of people are not only hungry, but are not on a good diet," he said, adding that while the need for food assistance has increased, government help is shrinking.

Jerry and Estella Hayes, who know about the importance of good diet, talked about their weight loss, which they achieved after they appeared on the TV show "The Biggest Loser" three years ago.

"Exercise is the fire to get your metabolism going, but food is the key," Jerry Hayes said.

For some, touring the place was a reminder of how much they have.

"You kind of forget that when we're eating dinner every night, there are so many people out there who are starving," said Kelly Massa, whose mother has worked for the food bank for more than 10 years.

Schaefer said the food bank is always seeking donations from the community. "For every dollar you donate, we get six meals," he said.

The Northern Illinois Food Bank is at 273 Dearborn Court in Geneva. For information call (630) 443-6910.

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