Q. Who is served by the Eastern Illinois Foodbank?
A. The Foodbank does not serve clients directly. Rather, we provide free and very low cost food to more than 220 food pantries and other agencies and programs serving individuals and families struggling with hunger. These agencies and programs combined feed approximately 100,000 individuals a year, and 1 in every 5 of these clients is a child. The agencies served by the Foodbank are scattered throughout a 14-county area in Eastern Illinois covering just over 8,000 square miles. Many of the people who rely on the agencies the Foodbank serves are making choices between paying for food and paying for housing, medication, or fuel. These people could be your friends, relatives, and/or neighbors.
Q. How much food does the Foodbank provide each year?
A. As need has risen, the Foodbank’s food output has risen accordingly. In the past year, the Eastern Illinois Foodbank provided 7.3 million pounds of food and grocery product to local families – 1.5 million of which was fresh produce. At the same time, large-scale bulk food donations to foodbanks around the country have steadily declined. This means that it has become much more expensive for the Eastern Illinois Foodbank to operate because it has to purchase more and more of its food.
Q. Where does the food come from?
A. The Foodbank is an affiliate member of Feeding America. With its national network of food banks numbering over 200, Feeding America is the largest domestic hunger relief organization. Through this network, the Eastern Illinois Foodbank is able to leverage partnerships to acquire donated and very low-cost food from manufacturers, retailers, and distributors. In 2012, approximately 34% of food acquired by the Eastern Illinois Foodbank was donated, compared with over 72% in 2008. Much of the rest of our food is acquired through government programs, like USDA commodity items set aside through the Farm Bill, or through purchases of product in bulk.
Q. What is the best way to support the Eastern Illinois Foodbank?
A. In recent years, as large-scale food donations have steadily declined, the Foodbank has had to increasingly rely on financial contributions from corporations, foundations, and individuals in the community. And even a small gift will go a long way—in fact, for every $1 donated, the Foodbank can acquire approximately $10 worth of food. However, we understand that we all have different giving abilities, and we greatly appreciate support of all types and at all levels. Community fundraisers or food drives are a fun and inexpensive way to support the Foodbank’s work without making a large financial contribution, and many have been very successful in the past.
Q. Where can I donate to the Foodbank?
A. To make a financial donation, you can visit our website at www.eifoodbank.org and donate securely. You can also call 217-328-3663 and make a credit card donation, or write a check and mail it to Eastern Illinois Foodbank, Attn: Development, 2405 N Shore Dr, Urbana, IL 61802. You may donate food during our normal warehouse hours, Monday-Thursday from 7:30 am – 3:30 pm or Friday from 7:30 am – 12 pm.
Q. What types of food are most needed by the Foodbank?
A. We call the foods we need most the “Super Six.” These items are especially nutritious or expensive to acquire, and include canned meats and fish, canned complete meals, canned beans and other vegetables, canned fruits, boxed meals, and peanut butter.
Q. Are there certain times of year that the Foodbank needs more food?
A. Contrary to popular opinion, the holidays are not the time of greatest need for the Eastern Illinois Foodbank. In fact, summer is a time of great need for donated food because children are home from school. Those that rely on free and reduced lunch during the school year do not have access to these programs during the summer, and parents struggle with the additional financial burden that comes with daytime child care.
Q. How many people in our community are hungry?
A. An estimated 1 in 5 people in Illinois struggles with low food security, or hunger. Of children under the age of 18, that number is much higher—an estimated 1 in 7 children in Illinois struggle with low food security. 23.4% of the residents of Champaign County, students excluded, live at or below the poverty line, which is set at an income of $23,550 annually for a family of four. This is a higher poverty rate than Cook County.
Q. Where can I get more information on hunger in eastern Illinois?
A. The Eastern Illinois Foodbank gathers its poverty and hunger data from multiple sources. The Heartland Alliance’s Social IMPACT Research Center publishes a yearly report on poverty in Illinois (http://www.heartlandalliance.org/research); the US Department of Agriculture (www.usda.gov) researches and maintains data on food insecurity throughout the United States; and Feeding America (www.feedingamerica.org) offers a wealth of diverse hunger information and resources. Additionally, we participate every four years in a comprehensive Hunger Study of our own agencies, which produces a wealth of data on our own agencies and client base. Some of this information can be made available on request.