Eastern Illinois Foodbank holds 19th annual drive

By Alyssa Etier

Eastern Illinois Foodbank began its 19th annual “Food for Families Annual Drive” at local grocery stores, businesses and schools Saturday and will continue through Nov. 12. The organization hopes to collect $50,000 and 150,000 pounds of food during the 15-day drive.

“The food drive is so vital because it’s a time we get food we usually don’t have access to,” said Jessica Culp, director of development for the organization.

The Eastern Illinois Foodbank is a member of America’s Second Harvest, a national hunger-relief organization, and this event is the food bank’s largest food drive.

Drop boxes are located at 24 local schools, 15 businesses and 11 grocery stores, such as Jerry’s IGA, 312 W. Kirby Ave., in Champaign and Wal-Mart, 505 S. Dunlap Ave., in Savoy. Some grocery stores offer pre-packaged food sets that cost between $5 and $10.

“It seems to be working really well this way,” said Brian Hettinger, assistant store manager at Jerry’s IGA. “It makes it more convenient for the customer that wants to donate something.”

Eastern Illinois Foodbank picks up the donations two to three times a week. People can also donate money to the fundraiser directly by mailing it to the food bank. The organization can provide $10 of food for every dollar donated, according to its Web site.

“This event is a great way for people to get involved in the area and actually see the donations go to people in the area,” said Jonathan Jewell, promotions director for AAA Champaign Radio Group, 4108 Fieldstone Rd., in Champaign, which is the food drive’s media sponsor and the company for Q96, 105.9 WGKC and 95.3. “It actually hits home.”

The food drive kicked off Saturday during the Illini football game at the AAA Radio Group tailgate. On Nov. 5, a live promotion for the food drive will be held at O’Brien Auto Park of Urbana, 104 E. University Ave. One person has the chance to win a car, and the company will donate $50 for every car sold during the event.

Eastern Illinois Foodbank works with 184 non-profit food programs in the 14 counties it serves, which includes the food drive’s locations of Champaign, Platt and Douglas counties. The food bank brings 4.6 million pounds of food a year to soup kitchens, pantries, shelters and youth-snack programs in the areas, Culp said. This year’s goal is five million pounds.

“We really need 19 million,” Culp said. “We’re working toward that goal, slowly but surely.”

One in four people in these counties struggle to find the resources for their next meal, Culp said.

“We’re very conscious about working people because they are the largest growing population,” Culp said.

The majority of the organization’s food comes from corporations and food businesses that donate food with mistyped labels or a food case with one damaged box.