Jacksonville Area Food Center Feeling Financial Crunch After Requests For Help Are Denied

By Benjamin Cox on May 20, 2024 at 1:49pm

Time may be running out for the Jacksonville Area Community Food Center’s finances.

The food center has requested financial help from the Village of South Jacksonville, the City of Jacksonville and the Morgan county Commissioners.

According to a presentation given to the City’s Finance Committee, the food center has been operating at $98,000 deficit this year over its first four months.

President of the Food Center Melissa Hall says they are looking for any help they can get. She says the city and village have both said ‘no’ to the food center’s requests at this time: “I’m just looking for any kind of money we can get. We went to the city asking for $70,000. I went to the Village of South Jacksonville asking for $15,000. With those two donations, it would have replenished what we are in the negative for the current fiscal year. With the increase in food costs and the increase in the number of families we are seeing, that’s the situation we are in.”

One of the common criticisms that the Food Center has heard has been the low barrier that they have for people who need food in the Jacksonville area. Hall says that’s the way the Food Center has operated for several years relying on area churches and donors to get them by until now: “The Food Center has been in Jacksonville for 40+ years. We always done what we called being “helpers.” We are the place that somebody can turn to if they don’t qualify for services through the Salvation Army. Say someone has a family and a catastrophe hits – they still have an income but that catastrophe hurts their finances as far as being able to purchase groceries. We are here mainly for those people on a fixed income or who have catastrophic events that need the help that make too much money per the guidelines to go to the Salvation Army, MCS Community Services, or any organization like that.”

Hall says that the Food Center isn’t really eligible for grant funding from the federal government or other organizations because of the way they are structured as an organization: “We are one of those essential “non-essentials” that don’t qualify for the USDA federal grants, emergency grants, or any of those funding sources. We do fly below the radar because we are church based and locally funded, so we don’t have the national coverage like some other organizations do. We rely on churches, individuals, local businesses, and that’s all wonderful. However, this year is just hitting a little bit harder with the uptick in the number of people we are serving and inflation on prices.”

Hall also says not to be misled when you go to local corporate businesses asking you to upcharge your purchases to help “your local food bank.” She says the Jacksonville Area Food Center doesn’t receive those donations: “Any time you make a purchase at Hy-Vee, Wal-Mart, CVS; they are asking you to upcharge so you can help your local food pantry. However, that is not us. That does go to the Central Illinois Food Bank in Springfield. That money stays there. It does not trickle down to us smaller food banks. As far as helping us out or supplying us, it’s a ‘yes-no’ with them. We have to purchase food through the Central Illinois Food Bank. That’s the biggest misconception there is, it’s not local to Jacksonville.”

Hall says that when they purchase food from the Central Illinois Food Bank, it has to be in bulk of 500 pounds and there is a delivery charge. She says that the local grocers don’t provide any price break other than since they are a nonprofit, they are not charged sales tax.

Hall says the only way to ensure that donations stay in Jacksonville is by dropping them off directly at the Jacksonville Food Center at 311 East Morgan Street during their hours of operation of 9AM to Noon Monday through Friday. She says your donations can come in the form of money, food, reusable grocery bags, and egg cartons. For more information about the Jacksonville Food Center, call 217-243-1122.