Belvidere Boone County Food Pantry could have ties severed to Northern Illinois Food Bank
CAPRON — The new leader of the Belvidere Boone County Food Pantry is tasked with getting the organization back on track after accusations of theft and inappropriate use of food for the needy.
The Rev. Danice Loveridge, a pantry board member for three years, was named interim executive director after the accusation. She said she’ll do her best to clear the pantry of a three-month probation handed down by the Northern Illinois Food Bank. She and her team have already made progress.
“They’ve made so many great moves already that we see this (probation) ending pretty quickly,” said Jennifer Nau, director of communications for Northern Illinois Food Bank. “Our team has been out there to train their staff and their volunteers as well.”
The pantry continues to serve people in need despite the probation. Probation means the pantry doesn’t receive food that had been donated to Northern Illinois Food Bank, but it still gets government commodities and other resources to serve the needy.
“I was very saddened by allegations that the food pantry could be in any sort of violation,” Loveridge said. “Our goal is to have (the probation status) lifted. My goal is to have it lifted within a week.”
Loveridge will serve as interim executive director for the next three months before deciding whether to formally apply for the job.
The food bank placed the pantry on probation for inappropriate use and theft of food meant for the needy. If the pantry doesn’t document enough proof that it has done everything it can to stop the misconduct, the 13-county food bank will kick the pantry out of its membership.
That means the pantry would lose support that includes almost 776,000 pounds of food a year. It also would lose the ability to apply for the food bank’s grants.
The Belvidere Boone County Food Pantry serves approximately 800-1,000 people in need each month and operates on an annual budget of about $250,000.
According to a March 28 letter the food bank sent to the pantry, the pantry violated Internal Revenue Service regulations by taking and reselling donated items. The Boone County Sheriff’s Department is investigating.
Board members immediately asked former executive director Linda Clark to step down and voted to have Loveridge take her place. Loveridge will receive $3,600 a month for the next three months, said Owen Costanza, the pantry board’s president.
Officials with both the food bank and pantry do not know how long the pantry was inappropriately making use of donated foods.
Loveridge and Costanza said they immediately started putting in place new policies and demanding training of its less than 10 employees and approximately 30 volunteers. They went over the food bank’s policies, which clearly state how to avoid probation status. “Exchanging donated food or other products for money, property or services,” the policies state.
Staff writer Kevin Haas contributed to this report.