This week's Patch Portraits also feature the story of a who serves up everything from halal meat to fresh orange juice, and the story of the and oldest business in town.
One Saturday last year, Dan Jariabka helped drive 10,000 pounds of donated frozen chicken to food pantries and nonprofits from Aurora to Waukegan.
On Father’s Day weekend, he helped distribute 600 pounds of fish freshly caught by a group of men who go fishing together annually to fight hunger.
The 58-year Northbrook resident is also a regular in the back room at, as well as at Jewel Osco, farmers markets and Panera restaurants around the area, where he picks up hundreds of pounds worth of produce and pastries that would otherwise be tossed.
It’s all in a day’s work for Jariabka, a retired firefighter and paramedic who now works full-time selling plastics. Along with a group of parishioners, Jariabka founded the Hunger Resource Network in 2009 with a vision of chipping away at hunger around the Chicago area.
All told, Jariabka says, he’s “rescued” 74 tons of food last year and put about 6,000 miles on his car distributing it to those in need.
Conceived along with fellow volunteers Wynette Edwards, Chrissy Ekenberg, Marlo Leaman and Gary and Susan Eimerman, Hunger Resource Network is dedicated to alleviating hunger by linking businesses and food providers with soup kitchens, food pantries and volunteers. It grew out of the church’s effort to meet the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago’s development goals for the new millennium, one of which is eradicating hunger.
In their effort to wipe out hunger worldwide, Jariabka and the others at St. Giles decided to start in their own backyard, broadly defined as northern Chicago, the north suburbs and Lake County.
“Members of St. Giles started compiling a list of all the different soup kitchens, food pantries and shelters,” he said. “We found out that the need was so great, there was more than we could handle as a small parish.”
After many, many meetings, Jariabka and the other founding members decided that the only way to serve the area they wanted was to start a nonprofit, nondenominational organization. In April 2009, the Hunger Resource Network was formed, and in July the group applied for status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Approval came six days later, Jariabka said.
“That just leads me to believe the need is so great,” he added.
While much of the work for the all-volunteer agency involves packing cars full of everything from frozen chicken to onion bagels (that’ll make your car smell for three days, Jariabka notes) the nonprofit is about more than simple distribution.
“The problem is, people don’t actually contact the organization they’re trying to help,” he says. “So if you called, let’s say, the : What are your needs? Well, maybe they’ve got all these SpaghettiOs, but what they could really use is some produce, or maybe some dairy products, or some diapers.”
Jariabka’s goal is to inject some organization and efficiency into food distribution by creating “marriages” between local churches or volunteer groups and food pantries or soup kitchens, so that each week, one organization is responsible for helping with one specific task.
“The ultimate goal is to take this model and use it anywhere else in the country, whether it be Rockford, or New York, or somewhere in Massachusetts,” Jariabka says.
Already, the young organization is gaining recognition as a model worth emulating. In April, the Village of Northbrook honored Jariabka with its annual Community Relations Commission Award, citing the group’s “exponential” growth and positive impact on the community.
“Daniel not only provided resources to serve the specific needs of those who are hungry and homeless, he has enabled collaboration among the residents of Northbrook and cooperation among those of different faith traditions,” read a proclamation from Village President Sandra Frum.
On a recent weekday, Jariabka chats with store manager Bruce Gonzalez in the back room of Sunset Foods, a longtime partner of local food pantries as well as the Hunger Resource Network. He’s here to pile produce and other foods the store can no longer sell into the back of his car, pulled up in the back parking lot. The boxes of discarded food might go several miles, or they might stay very close to home.
In a mostly wealthy community like Northbrook, “people think no one’s starving,” comments Gonzalez.
“Oh yeah, they are.”
While Jariabka can’t put an exact figure on it, he says he’s seen a definite increase in demand with the economic downturn.
“We don’t care who gets the food as long as it’s handled safely,” he says. “We just don’t want to let it go to waste.”
That’s the impetus that’s driving he and his volunteers as far south as 4600 South and as far north as Waukegan. If there’s food to be given away—even 10,000 pounds of frozen chicken—he’ll find a way to put it to use.
This week's Patch Portraits also feature the story of a 19-year-old grocer who serves up everything from halal meat to fresh orange juice, and the story of the family behind Niles' garden center and oldest business in town.