Breakfast club fights poverty


Chris Picchietti, middle left, junior in AHS, prepares pancakes for Tommy Stern, left, freshman in Engineering, Mike O’Shea, middle right, freshman in general studies, and Andrew Smiles freshman in Engineering, Thursday.

By Jacob Hurwith

More than 100 students were able to feed their stomachs Thursday when they bought pancakes to help fight poverty in the Champaign-Urbana area.

“Pancakes for Poverty,” a new registered student organization hosting the sale, is based off a breakfast club originating from some of the members’ high school.

“Our main thing is to be charitable and to have fun,” said David Elster, sophomore in Business and external vice president of the group.

“We are just starting out, but we want to see this grow into something big.”

Alex Ronning, sophomore in LAS and president of the RSO, said the money from the sales this year will be going to the Eastern Illinois Foodbank.

“We planned on giving to an international or national charity,” Ronning said.

“However, we wanted to make an immediate impact, so we decided to give to a local charity. We wanted to fix the problem here before we go national.”

Thursday’s sale was the group’s second sale of the semester. So far, the organization has donated more than $230 to the food bank.

Jessica Paulsen, director of marketing and development for the Eastern Illinois Foodbank, said the nonprofit organization delivers over 5 million pounds of food products to 14 counties in Illinois.

“We provide food to places likes food pantries and soup kitchens,” Paulsen said.

“Ninety-four cents of every dollar goes directly to our cause of providing food. The food distributed through the food bank reaches an average of 40,000 people each month.”

According to the 2008 Heartland Alliance Illinois Poverty Report, 1.5 million people in Illinois are living in poverty, or 12.3 percent of the population.

Additionally, more than 680,000 people in Illinois live in the most extreme form of poverty, living at or below half the poverty line.

The poverty line is determined each year and issued in the Federal Register by the Department of Health and Human Services.

According to their Web site, the poverty line for a single-person household in 48 states, excluding Alaska and Hawaii, is $10,400.

That number increases $3,600 for each additional person living in the house.

Danny Zeckhauser, a junior in Engineering who donated to the cause Thursday, said he thinks poverty will exist in any slightly urban area.

“Food banks are not a solution,” Zeckhauser said. “But it helps to take care of the people who can not get food elsewhere.”

The U.S. Census Bureau indicates that 19 percent of the residents in Champaign County are below the poverty level.

Despite some of the disturbing numbers, Ronning said he would like to keep the atmosphere of the club warm and light-hearted.“This is a day full of love, peace and pancakes,” Ronning said. “We are not just waffling around.”