This summer a woman stopped by the Northfield Township Food Pantry hoping to secure a special infant formula for her newborn baby. But the food pantry did not carry it.
Instead of referring the woman to another agency, Mary Lou Kratochwill, food pantry coordinator at Northfield Township Food Pantry called INFANT Inc., a Winnetka-based nonprofit.
“They are here at the drop of a dime,” Kratochwill said. “All I have to do is call and within a day they will have bring formula for pantry clients.”
INFANT provided about three months supply of the special Gentlease formula for the baby, Kratochwill said.
30 Years and Ongoing
Since 1983, a group of high school friends from around Chicagoland have been volunteering their time to purchase, deliver and raise funds for the nonprofit.
Eight women started the group after reading an article about funding cuts to a government program for women, infant and children.
“They’d read that some moms were taking baby formula and watering down because they needed for it to last longer. They said ‘why don’t we do something,’” said Lisa Iberle a INFANT volunteer. “They collected some money, brought baby formula and delivered to a few food pantries. They have been doing it every month since.”
From posting a small ad in their church bulletin to now sending out two mailings annually to raise funds, the group has distributed $2.6 million worth of baby formula and clothing since its started almost 30 years.
There are still 11 active members, some are the original members and others are the founders’ daughters or family members.
Benefiting 60 Plus Food Pantries, Shelters
“We now deliver to 60 different food pantries, shelters and social agencies. Many times we go to these places, we see lines going out the door for the food pantries,” Iberle said.
In 2010, some 2.17 million infants in America relied on federal assistance for supplemental food, according to Food and Nutrition Service, a Federal agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Baby formula isn’t something that’s usually donated,” Iberle said. "If a church has a collection drive people buy peanut butter, they buy tuna fish –they don’t buy baby formula.”
To help with the shortage of baby formula at food pantries and shelters, the nonprofit delivers about $10,000 worth of formula per month on average to areas as far south as 93rd Street in Chicago, west to Aurora and as far north as Waukegan.
Grand Food Center Partnership
The Winnetka nonprofit is now participating in The Grand Food Center’s Food for Funds program where INFANT will receive 3 percent of all Grand Foods or Dee Jay Foods receipts submitted between now and December 31. For more information on where to mail receipts, visit: INFANTInc.org.
Volunteering with INFANT is high priority for Winnetka resident Iberle and Kenilworth resident Susie Coughlin.
“It’s great to work with a group that is genuinely interested in each other,” Coughlin said.
Iberle says making deliveries is the women’s time to catch up with each other but adds that “the focus really is on the baby, the benefit that we get is an added bonus.”
“One of the reasons the group has lasted for so long is because there are still families that need baby formula,” Iberle said.