KC’s Bread Run Boasts Impressive History of Helping the Hungry
God Calls … The Knights of Columbus
By Lynne Conner, Observer Correspondent
April 25, 2024
Nearly every weekend, Bill Osborne, past Grand Knight of Rockford’s St. Rita Knights of Columbus Council #7624, goes out for donuts. He doesn’t enjoy the sweet treats himself; instead, Osborne and other dedicated volunteers collect donated bakery items, produce and meat from Schnucks grocery store and bread from Panera Bread in Rockford to bring to local food pantries and homeless shelters.
“The Bread Run, as we call it, started a little over 20 years ago when one of our St. Rita Council Knights noticed day-old bread being removed from grocery store shelves. He asked about taking the items to a local food pantry and got approval from the store and the pantry,” Osborne said. Through the years, the Bread Run has evolved to include grocery items beyond the bread donations from Panera.
“We are eager to take any donated items Schnucks has, and what we get every week varies greatly,” Osborne said. “Typically, we will get bakery items and produce from Schnucks, but we have also received holiday food items, 300 frozen pizzas, 500 pounds of frozen pork. 
“Recently, we took over five cases of fruit punch to the Rockford Rescue Mission. The lady who met us there said they had just run out of beverages for their clients, and getting the fruit punch was truly a Godsend. A while back, we had a donation of school supplies that we took over to the Rock House Kids youth mentoring program just in time for back-to-school,” he said.
“Currently, the volunteers and I collect food items on Saturday and Sunday mornings from Panera Bread on South Perryville Road, the Schnucks grocery store on East State Street, and the Schnucks on 11th Street and take them to Cornucopia Food Pantry and the Rockford Rescue Mission,” Osborne explained. 
“Pat Powers, a Past Grand Knight of the St. Rita Council, and his wife, Patty, pick up donated food from the East State Schnucks on Tuesdays and bring it to St. Elizabeth’s Center and the Veterans’ Drop-In Center, both in Rockford,” he said. 
The KC Bread Run volunteers have collected impressive food donations during the past 20 years. “The Cornucopia Food Pantry weighs each donation, and every year they give us a letter detailing how many pounds of food the Bread Run volunteers have brought in,” Osborne said. “We send that letter to the national Knights of Columbus headquarters in Connecticut, and they reimburse the St. Rita Council up to $500 for every 5,000 pounds of food donated annually. So, this is a nice fundraiser for our council.”
According to Osborne, in 2023 the Bread Run volunteers collected 26,000 pounds of food for the Cornucopia pantry and between 75,000 and 100,000 pounds for the Rockford Rescue Mission. “Based on these numbers, I calculated that we have collected between 1.25 and 1.50 million pounds of food in the 20 years since starting the Bread Run.”
While these statistics are certainly impressive, Osborne said that the success of the Bread Run depends on recruiting more volunteers to help with the food distribution.  “We’re  always open to having more people assist us with the Bread Run, and this is a great volunteer opportunity for all ages,” Osborne said. “We’re keeping food from going to waste and helping our community.” He notes that one of the Bread Run volunteers regularly takes bruised or less-than-perfect produce to an area farm where the spoiled fruits and vegetables are fed to the pigs and chickens.
“We meet some wonderful people on our Bread Runs, and we are reaching out where God wants us to be,” Osborne said. 
For more information on how to volunteer for the KC’s Bread Run, contact Osborne by email at [email protected]
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