Heart of Illinois Harvest
PEORIA, ILLINOIS (pjstar.com) - About 900 volunteers went door-to-door Sunday to collect food for the Peoria Area Anti-Hunger Coalition's 33rd annual Foodshare Can-a-thon, which benefits thousands from many walks of life.
Last year, the event collected around 65,000 pounds of food for pantries and soup kitchens across central Illinois. This year's team of volunteers visited homes in Peoria, Bartonville, Chillicothe, Rome, Mossville, Lacon, Farmington, Glasford and Creve Couer. How much food has been collected so far is not known, yet, but since it started March 13, the drive has been going well, said Pepper Bauer, can-a-thon co-chair. Every month, about 30,000 people visit pantries and kitchens, according to a coalition news release. By this time of year, food pantries have gone through what was donated during the holiday season, Bauer said. The pantries need a boost, especially when summer comes and children don't have access to school lunches.
Bauer said many people are not aware of the need for food in central Illinois.
"That's why we try to educate, too, with our press releases and our press conferences and the stuff we put out," Bauer said. "We keep trying to tell people that there's a lot of people in central Illinois that are hungry, and people just don't realize. It could be their next door neighbor."
The people who need food pantries are not just the unemployed or the poor, but single parents with low-paying jobs, teen mothers, elderly people with expensive prescription drugs, families with recent medical emergencies or deaths, or simply someone not able to work because of an accident or illness.
The can-a-thon is participating with Kroger stores in Peoria, Bartonville, East Peoria, Washington, Chillicothe, Pekin, East Peoria, Canton, Bloomington and Normal. Kroger shoppers can pay $3, $5 or $10 for pre-filled bags at checkout. The bags are then placed elsewhere in the store before being picked up later by a can-a-thon volunteer. Collection bins also will be available in Peoria neighborhood fire stations, WBNH Radio on 1919 Mayflower Drive in Pekin, WCIC Radio on 3902 W. Baring Trace in Peoria and certain Peoria area Subways.
Donations to Kroger and other collection bin locations can be made until April 2.
Monetary donations can be mailed to the Peoria Area Anti-Hunger Coalition at 9908 Indiana Ridge Court, Edwards IL 61528.
For those who cannot donate food or money, volunteering at a food pantry can be just as good, Bauer said. Finding volunteers is a year long struggle for area pantries that run on such help. The average volunteer is 81 years old, since the elderly tend to be the ones with the most free time, said Bauer and Christie Cook, chairman of the board for Heart of Illinois Harvest.
"It's difficult to find volunteers that are younger," Cook said, "because a lot of kids are involved with things already, and hunger isn't cool. It's not the charity of the day."
There is at least one food pantry in every central Illinois ZIP code, which makes it convenient for those who probably cannot afford transportation, said Marjorie LaFont, can-a-thon co-chair.
"Unfortunately, our economy is not getting better," LaFont said. "I'd like to see every year that we don't need to do the can-a-thon, that every family and every individual has enough food to eat, but, unfortunately, that's not the case."
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Updated 9 days ago Article ID# 4089292
Heart of Illinois Harvest