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Holiday box feasts have everything but the bird

Gurnee 11/13/12
AndreClark Mundelepulls out fresh boxes mashed potatoes add boxes being packed by volunteers holiday meal Northern Illinois Food Bank.

Gurnee 11/13/12 Andrea Clark of Mundelein pulls out fresh boxes of mashed potatoes to add to the boxes being packed by volunteers of a holiday meal at the Northern Illinois Food Bank. | Michelle LaVigne ~ Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 13, 2013 1:29AM

PARK CITY — There was only one element missing Tuesday as dozens of Northern Illinois Food Bank volunteers formed assembly lines to pack holiday meal boxes with everything needed for a Thanksgiving feast.

“The only thing that’s left out of here right now is the actual turkey. We’re not going to put a turkey in a box and keep it (for a week),” said food bank communications and advocacy manager Christopher Strupp as one cardboard container after another was sealed with packing tape at the agency’s Keller Drive facility.

“But we have the corn, we have sweet potatoes, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, coffee, and then the dessert is either some sort of pie or brownies,” Strupp said, adding that the turkeys — donated or purchased by the food bank — will be added before delivery later this week or early next week. Thanksgiving is eight days away.

A total of 700 agencies are partnering with the food bank to distribute the boxes, with three different assembly centers putting the meals together and sending them out by truck.

The Park City site covers agencies in the northern suburbs, including all of Lake and McHenry counties, and part of Kane.

Because it is also intended to provide for families in need at Christmastime, the holiday meal box program will run for the next six weeks and is expected to assemble a total of 30,000 boxes over the next six weeks.

Tuesday marked the first day of packing items purchased with financial support from donors or provided by Hillshire, Jet Sert, Jewel-Osco and Smuckers, and by day’s end, some 2,000 boxes were scheduled to be ready to roll.

“They are going to families who otherwise may have not had a holiday meal this year,” Strupp said. “Our donors have really stepped up. I think they see that hunger is an issue in their community.

“We know that one in eight individuals are facing hunger in northern Illinois, so when we tell (donors) that and how much a donation means to a neighbor of theirs, they really want to give back,” he added.

More than two dozen volunteers were set to work a three-hour shift Tuesday, and Strupp noted the food bank draws assistance from a regular core of volunteer workers that comes in every Tuesday and Thursday.

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