September 30th, 2015

When I retired I chose to volunteer at Loaves & Fishes because of the impact I knew it had in our community. After 25 years of teaching, it was evident to me that poor nutrition and hunger were often obstacles to a child’s success at school. When a 12 year old is hungry, all that matters is getting something to eat. Long division doesn’t stand a chance!

Parents have told me that before they received help at Loaves & Fishes, they often skipped meals so that their kids could eat. Many of them are underemployed or working 2 or more part-time jobs trying to provide for their families. When our clients chose to start families, they were confident they could provide for their children. It only takes one day – a job lost, a cancer diagnosis, a divorce – to turn that world upside down for any of us.

I am so thankful that Loaves & Fishes is ready to provide nutritious meals for local kids. Children really are our future. We need to ask ourselves what kind of world we are making if we let our most vulnerable kids go hungry.


Linda Bacon, retired teacher, Loaves & Fishes’ volunteer and donor

September 17th, 2015

September 17th, 2015

o-FORTUNE-COOKIES-facebookI recently cracked open a fortune cookie to find my personal fortune, “The world will soon be ready to receive your talents.” Pondering this, I wondered why the world wasn’t ready for my “talents” earlier in my life. Sure, my position at Loaves & Fishes as the Donor Relations Officer has created new opportunities, but wasn’t the world ready for me earlier? Thinking about my talents, I realize that in life we have talents that we utilize at work, talents we utilize at home, talents we utilize when we are with friends and talents that are multi-functional in any situation. One of my multifunctional talents is my gift of conversation (some may say “gab”). I am able to converse with anyone anywhere and I genuinely enjoy their stories. As a matter of fact, I actually like “cracking” the exterior shell of the people I meet in order to have a more meaningful conversation.

I guess I learned the gift of gab from both of my parents. My mom would talk to the cashier at Jewel and know how many children they had and their ages before our groceries were loaded into our cart. My dad had a wonderful sense of humor, so the stories he would tell (sometimes more than once) would have you rolling on the floor. I am proud to say that I am the product of both of my parents’ talents. I not only like to hear the stories of the people I meet, but also like to tell them the latest escapades in my household that will bring them to tears – happy tears.

Recently, I attended a two day conference focused on molding an advancement program that works for your organization. The information was very helpful in understanding my role in the big picture of advancement here at Loaves & Fishes. Advancement is a crucial part of any non-profit organization. This is not to say that every “spoke in the wheel” of a non-profit organization is not crucial, but in order to keep the lights on and serve the community, I must spread the word of the importance of our mission and “ask” for support from everyone I engage.

11880317_10152945499070583_303814377943852854_nAs I alluded to earlier, I enjoy speaking to people and hearing their story. I have no problem talking to 1 or 1,000 people about Loaves & Fishes because I am beyond proud to be a “spoke in the wheel.” However, I am also aware that one of my weaknesses (yes, I am admitting this “flaw” to all of you), I am not always the best listener. This is not due to a lack of interest in your story; it is my unrestrained enthusiasm to tell you my story (our story). I do want to know why you choose to support Loaves & Fishes. It might be that you are a volunteer; it might be that you once used our services; or it just might be that you so enjoy my storytelling that you would definitely want to support us. I would like to believe it’s the latter.

Most importantly, the stories of our clients have touched you as much as they have touched all of us and for that we are thankful. Your support helps us to help others and isn’t that what community is all about? So, next time I stop to talk with you, please feel free to remind me to listen to your story because your story is important to me!

Diane Ramonas, Donor Relations Officer

September 17th, 2015

Having children is the best way to truly understand who we are. I’ve never been more aware of my tendencies, common phrases (even the curse words, oops) and idiosyncrasies than I am today as the mom of an almost four year old. Now, those who have met our little Drew know he’s the spitting image of his daddy (how lucky am I to have two blond-haired, blue-eyed boys in my life?). And if you spend time with him you learn that he doesn’t just look like my husband, but has a lot of the same personality traits too: strong-willed, persistent, organized and even, surprisingly, tidy.

There is one particular trait, though, that Drew and my husband share that is problematic for me: they are both picky eaters. Most kids are a little picky, but shouldn’t the child of a self-declared foodie be willing to try anything? It’s not so much that Drew is a picky eater as much as he really doesn’t care about food – just like his dad. They could both eat the same thing over and over and not really care. And that same thing can be plain chicken (God forbid it have seasoning) or a plain bagel.

When it comes to feeding them, all of my excitement for making things gourmet, flavorful and unique are for naught. That being said, more often than not, they like what I spend hours sweating over and sometimes even request it again (that’s a win!). One of Drew’s favorite foods is rice – fried rice, Spanish rice, rice pilaf, any rice – and I can usually create a pretty balanced meal with rice as the base.

mushroom-risotto-1This past weekend, I had an “aha” moment – I could make a gourmet meal and feed my family! We had oven roasted chicken over wild mushroom risotto with balsamic glazed asparagus. Drew ate a good portion of chicken and more than his fair share of risotto…with mushrooms!

There are certainly a lot of opinions about how to get your child to eat and, more importantly, how to eat right. I recently read a blog by Charlotte Stirling-Reed, a nutrition consultant, who provides some general guidelines that I think we all know but are good reminders.

Of particular interest to me are the following points:

  • Restricting foods can make them unintentionally desirable. Keeping foods in the house that children can see but aren’t allowed to eat makes those foods more appealing. Children are then more likely to overeat such foods on other occasions (e.g., at parties, where they are unrestricted).
  • happy-kid

  • It can take 15-20 exposures before a child accepts a new taste. Introduce foods gradually, over time. Encouraging children to touch, taste, lick or smell a food can all help the food to become more familiar, meaning children are then more likely to eat it.
    When I’m frustrated about Drew’s eating habits, this is the information I need to remember. Since he was a baby, he has not a great eater, but my mom has always said, “he’s not going to starve.” And that’s true, but I also want Drew to eat and eat well. It is necessary for his physical growth, plus it’s also good for him (and us) emotionally. I’ve said it before, and you’ll hear me say it again, food nourishes the body and the mind. Mealtime is about more than feeding the physical needs – it’s about creating moments as a family. This weekend was a victory in my books – my picky eaters enjoyed a gourmet meal around the table.

    Megan Selck, President & CEO

    September 12th, 2015

    2015 CSR OverviewLoaves & Fishes’ Child Nutrition Initiative has been a crucial part of our hunger-relief efforts since 2004, when it was launched to supplement the loss of school-provided lunches for students during the summer months. As the need in our community increased, the initiative expanded in 2005 to provide breakfast foods for students during the school year. Today, Loaves & Fishes provides supplemental nutrition, including milk and eggs, to nearly 10,000 local children age 18 and under in order to benefit a child’s physical, mental and intellectual growth. How are we able to accomplish this? With the help of our donors, such as Jackson National that has invested $85,000 over the past three years through its Community Fund to advance our Child Nutrition Initiative forward.

    We had the pleasure of speaking with Danielle Robinson, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager at Jackson National, about her involvement and what makes our partnership so meaningful:

    How has your work at Jackson National been fulfilling to you? What has made your work meaningful?

    Helping Jackson and it’s associates support critical community and charitable initiatives is incredibly rewarding. Jackson associates are generous with their time and resources and that kind of generosity is contagious. I’ve worked with the Jackson National Community Fund and our Jackson in Action programs for nine years and in that time the program has grown substantially. That growth is driven by our associates’ desires to do more to help those in need. When I can connect an associate’s desire to help and a charity’s need for service, it’s a great day.

    Jackson National employees provide much needed volunteer support throughout the country.

    Jackson National employees provide much needed volunteer support throughout the country.

    How does Loaves & Fishes help Jackson National achieve its goals?

    Working with Loaves & Fishes on the Child Nutrition Initiative is a perfect fit for Jackson’s charitable program. We have a focus to serve the needs of kids and seniors, so helping low-income youth learn about nutrition is an important effort that we are happy to support. Loaves & Fishes is not only providing nutritious food, but helping kids learn how to make healthy decisions in the future. That’s the kind of long-term impact we like to see.

    What sets Jackson National apart from other businesses?

    We say it all the time at Jackson that our people set us apart. Jackson associates innovate and execute at a high level, giving 110% every day. However, from my vantage point I would also say that Jackson associates are among the most generous people you’ll ever meet. They are willing to go above and beyond to help others. Whether it’s another team member, policy holder or a community organization that is in need, Jackson associates are always putting others first.

    September 9th, 2015

    Hunger Hits Home 4In recognition of Hunger Action Month, Jump for Food hosted “Hunger Hits Home,” a panel discussion on hunger and poverty in the western suburbs on Thursday, September 3, 2015 at Benedictine University. Congressman, Bill Foster, provided opening remarks and commended the organizations present for their daily work serving and empowering food insecure families. The panelists were local hunger relief experts: Julie Yurko, President & CEO of Northern Illinois Food Bank (Geneva); Megan Selck, President & CEO of Loaves & Fishes Community Services (Naperville); and Eric Gardner, Development Director of West Suburban Community Pantry (Woodridge).

    “This is about working together to solve a public health crisis,” said Megan Selck. “Partnering makes all of us stronger.”

    “Events like this help create a dialogue about hunger in our local communities,” said Julie Yurko, of Northern Illinois Food Bank. “We appreciate any opportunity we have to spread the word about how the Food Bank’s network is working to solve hunger and how everyone can get involved.”

    SpoontemberHunger Action Month is a national campaign by Feeding America. The first Thursday of September is “Go Orange Day” so panelists and attendees were dressed in orange to support Hunger Action and posing for “spoon selfies” as a way to mobilize social media resources for hunger awareness. “I enjoyed the opportunity to talk with the students and the community about hunger,” said Eric Gardner, of West Suburban Community Pantry. “I am truly excited to see the enthusiasm of the students to help make an impact on hunger in DuPage County.”

    The event was hosted by Jump for Food, a coalition comprised of Loaves & Fishes Community Services, Northern Illinois Food Bank and Launch Digital Marketing. The group is hosting Hunger Action Month events in the Naperville area throughout the month. Stay updated by following Loaves & Fishes or Jump for Food on Facebook!

    September 3rd, 2015

    September 1st, 2015

    Topic Hunger Facts
    August 31st, 2015

    Topic Community
    August 31st, 2015

    Walmart Check Presentation 1The Walmart Foundation has donated $50,000 to Loaves & Fishes to help us reduce hunger in our community. Brian Bolliger, Loaves & Fishes’ Board Member, and LaVerne Mathews, Director of Advancement, were presented with a check from Greg Szarzynski, Walmart Store Manager, as part of the Walmart Foundation’s State Giving Program, which supports organizations that create opportunities so people can live better and that have a long-lasting, positive impact on communities across the U.S.

    As a result of the grant, Loaves & Fishes plans to empower more client families to self-sufficiency through our Client Engagement Model, which provides necessary resources, such as job search support, computer classes, grocery assistance, public benefit assistance, mental health counseling and Veterans’ benefit assistance. This integrated approach promotes long-term results for families struggling to make ends meet by increasing economic stability while addressing underlying issues that eventually manifest into food insecurity.

    “Finding solutions for families can be a daunting task,” said Megan Selck, President & CEO of Loaves & Fishes. “The grant from the Walmart Foundation has made it possible for us to expand our efforts by training more volunteer leaders who act as the ‘front-line’ for the Client Engagement Model. This, in turn, will help us create more care plans for our client families, and we anticipate that more client families will improve their household conditions and be closer to becoming self-sufficient.”

    Walmart Check Presentation 2This donation has a special significance for Walmart Associate Judith Rodeo, who got help from Loaves & Fishes when her house was foreclosed on in 2009.

    “I have two sons and when we needed help with medical insurance and finding food, Loaves & Fishes was there for us,” Judith said. “I’m so proud to be working for a company that recognizes the importance of organizations like this. They were a real blessing for me and my family and with this donation from the Walmart Foundation, they can keep blessing others.”