Online Food Pantry Fills Gaps in Hunger Relief

My pantry express
Photo courtesy of Northern Illinois Food Bank.

Northern Illinois Food Bank is a 2019 grantee in the Christopher Family Foundation’s Individual and Family Health & Wellbeing program area. This story was contributed by Northern Illinois Food Bank staff.

Solving hunger is a complex problem that requires an equally complex solution. In order to ensure every neighbor has access to every meal, every day, we are constantly innovating and working to create viable, sustainable and replicable ways to meet our neighbors where they are.

My Pantry Express, our new pilot program, is an online food pantry that is helping to accomplish just that. The first of its kind for Feeding America food banks, My Pantry Express (or MPX) is designed to address gaps in the charitable food network, including access and stigma around needing assistance. This program can reach neighbors not currently being served and reduce barriers to equitable access to nutritious food.

How MPX Works

During the program pilot, the Food Bank has collaborated with trusted partners—communities in direct contact with people in need of food assistance. Our neighbors can browse and order a variety of groceries on the MPX website on a weekly basis.

On average, we offer 35-40 grocery items to choose from; 50 percent of the items offered have been purchased by the Food Bank, and 50 percent are generously donated. An average order consists of 30 items, which is approximately 62 pounds of groceries, and has an estimated value of $45-50, based on a recent audit that compared the prices of our shopping list items to those at local grocery stores. The most popular items are bottled water, milk, beef, chicken, and juice.

Once an order has been placed, neighbors can choose to pick up from designated locations in DeKalb, Lake County, and Rockford. Locations include Walmart and other community partners, such as schools. Times vary based on location, and range from Tuesday night to Saturday morning. When neighbors arrive to pick up, they drive up with their order number, and their groceries are loaded directly into their cars by our friendly volunteers.

MPX pilot results

Through early October 2019, more than 1,250 unique families have been served through My Pantry Express, with over 4,000 orders fulfilled since February. 74 percent of food-insecure neighbors participating in MPX reported being able to keep up with their bills on time and making fewer “tough choices” about whether to pay for food, medicine, housing, or other expenses. MPX now accounts for 8-10 percent of the Food Bank’s total distribution in DeKalb County.

Looking ahead

Thanks to our amazing team and the support of our donors, volunteers and community partners, MPX is growing quickly and making a positive impact in our communities that are most in need! We’re on target to provide 1 million meals in the first year of the pilot alone. Our goal is to scale up to 500-600 orders per week at 10 sites by June of 2020.

Visit to learn more about how YOU can help make sure every neighbor has access to the nutritious groceries they need today.