Established by a coalition of churches in 1982, the Central Illinois Food Bank is continuing its fight to feed over 100,000 people in our 21-county region. Pam Molitoris, Central Illinois Foodbank executive director, talked to eighteen21.com about the non-profit’s mission, programs, and how we as a community can contribute further to the cause.
What does the food bank do?
Central Illinois Foodbank's mission is to collect donated food and grocery items from growers, manufacturers, processors, wholesalers and retailers for distribution to charitable agencies serving those in need, and work with public and private organizations to develop creative solutions to end hunger. In the 2016 fiscal year, we distributed approximately nine million pounds of food to 150 pantries, soup kitchens, residential programs, and after-school programs in a 21-county region, which spans from Quincy to the west and Decatur to the east, as well as, Lincoln to the north and Mt. Vernon to the south.
We also run two direct service programs, mobile food pantries, and our Kids Cafe program. Our mobile food pantries distribute 10,000 to 12,000 pounds of food, of which 60% is fresh produce, at one location. On average, we do around 40 mobile pantries a year.
Our Kids Cafe program provides after-school meals to children at three locations and also provides summer meals to children at 10 Sites throughout Springfield. In the fiscal year 2016, we provided more than 26,000 meals to children through the program.
When did you open at this location – how long have you been there?
In 2013, we moved into 1937 East Cook Street, formerly the home of the Springfield Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company. The Faloon Family, owners of the Pepsi plant, donated the building to the Foodbank. The new building allowed us to expand from 22,000 to 56,000 square feet and added several cooling spaces. Our freezer space was expanded, we were able to add a cold dock, and created two separate cooling spaces, a produce cooler and a dairy cooler.
How do you distribute all that food – could you take us through the journey of a donated item?
We deliver about 60% of the food our agencies receive, while the other 40% is picked up by agencies. When an item is donated, it’s taken to our sort room to be inspected for dates and to make sure the packaging has not been tampered with. It is then placed in an area where our agencies can pick it up during a trip to the Foodbank or put on our food list where agencies can include it in their order. Once it is in the agencies’ hands the food is distributed to those in need.
Approximately how many people do you feed each year?
The latest Map the Meal Gap study shows that nearly 107,000 people in our 21-county region don’t know where their next meal will come from. Of those 107,000, nearly 40,000 are children. We are here to provide these individuals with the food they need.
What is the most rewarding part of being a part of this organization?
We have really put an emphasis on healthy foods, particularly fresh produce. We have held several events where we offer fresh fruits and vegetables to kids; when you hand them a bag of apples or grapes and their faces light up. That’s what’s most rewarding, seeing the look of joy on someone’s face when they know they are going to have good food in their belly.
What is the biggest challenge that the Central Illinois Foodbank faces?
People often think of hunger as an issue that occurs in third world countries, nowhere near America, let alone their own community. That’s the challenge for us, to make people aware that hunger is here in our community, it might even be your neighbor who is struggling.
If someone were interested in getting involved, how could they do this?
They can visit our website centralilfoodbank.org or contact our volunteer coordinator Elaina Feuerbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 217-522-4022.
For more information:
Central Illinois Foodbank