The Central Illinois Foodbank received a half million dollar donation from an anonymous source today. The donation is expected to be used to address the growing need for food assistance for the food bank’s 21-county service region.
Executive Director Pam Molitoris says the food bank is getting together in the coming days to decide how to best distribute the money across its service region: “We haven’t yet got down to what we are going to do per county yet. That’s going to be a part of who we end up targeting in terms of the higher need areas, but we plan on doing is, for me and for the foodbank – it’s really important that we make sure that we are actually putting food on people’s table. We will be using these funds primarily to procure nutritious food.”
Molitoris says that they characterize that nutritious food as dairy, lean protein, and fresh produce for distribution to the local food pantries and partners that they serve, as well as providing more food distribution events in the upcoming year.
Molitoris says that the amount of food insecurity in the area is alarming, especially for the elderly and young children: “There is a study that is done every year called the Mouth to Meal Gap, and it looks at the number people that may not know where their next meal is coming from. Prior to COVID, the last numbers showed that in our 21-county service region that the number was close to 90,000 people, and we know now that the latest projections in terms of estimates that they are over 120,000 individuals now do not know where their next meal is coming from. If you look at that in terms of a percentage, that represents a 35% increase across the board. Then, when we look at children, that’s a pretty alarming number, because when we look at children and food insecurity, the projection is actually 46% of children don’t know where their next meal is coming from.”
Molitoris says the foodbank is developing plans for more drive through distributions in the coming year in meetings next week. Since March, the foodbank has provided food through 85 distribution events across Central Illinois, which included nearly 2 million pounds of food. Molitoris says it’s a 25% increase in food distribution since the same time frame last year: “There is such a need out there. We are hearing from many people as they walk through the lines that they have never had to do this in their lives, and they are in this very difficult position now where they are asking for help.”
Molitoris says if the pandemic continues she can foresee the need to do several food distributions per week in the coming year.