Kaleigh obliges me for a photo while she gives me a run-down of facts about her work.
In continuing with my series on people, I decided to highlight a young woman who is doing some great work in my community. Kaleigh works for the Central Illinois Foodbank here in Springfield and she contacted me several months ago via Twitter and asked to meet with me. It was a super busy time of work for me but I needed a bit of a break one evening and she said the magic words. Wanna meet for coffee? She and I had spoken via Twitter a few times and I agreed to talk to her about what I do for work, for blogging, and for social media.
Explaining all the pallets of food and where they come from and how they're distributed.
Yesterday, after work, I went over to the foodbank because I'd never been there before and Kaleigh offered to give me a tour of the place and tell me more about her work there. She is the Public Relations Manager and reached out to me several months ago. It was rather spectacular to sit down for coffee with someone and connect quickly. Kaleigh is one of those People Every Day that makes me grateful. I'm grateful for the work she does in her career. I'm appreciative of the passion she has to feed the hungry. I'm obliged to be able to highlight the great stuff she's doing in my community.
Especially when I read things like this. It's a story from 2000 about a church in Winnipeg, Manitoba that closed their doors of the food pantry after attracting too many poor people. A quote from it:
Most clients of food banks have not yet come to a sense of personal responsibility in life. They are still in denial, blame or seeing the world as owing them,” wrote Rev. David Durksen of the Unity Church of Victoria.
I know the working poor and I work with them a lot in my job, but I don't know a single one of them who sits at home and expects to be fed. Many are working two or three jobs or 3rd shifts to make ends meet and all they want is what I want: to eat good food and make sure their children are nourished. Heck, I was the working poor for a portion of my life.
When I was 19 I received food stamps for the first time and I stayed on them until I got my first full-time job teaching. Mallory was fed well during that time and I'm also grateful to have used food banks when I could. On special occasions, when most people don't even think about the extra burden of a poor person trying to lead a normal life, we got turkeys and pumpkin pies, fresh fruit and bread, and even something really special like homemade jam. I remember that time with clarity and how hard it was to stand in lines for a paper sack of foods that would help me and my young daughter celebrate Thanksgiving like everybody else. I walked in with a toddler on my hip who hated all the time it took but completely missed the shame on my face. Thankfully.
That's probably why I had such a visceral reaction to touring the food bank, some 20 years later, as a career woman with a job and health care and who eats well and often enough.When I got in my car I waited until I was far enough from the building to let the first tear fall. I didn't want to make it all about me, of course. I knew I was weeping for the work Kaleigh and her colleagues do and for the families who were just like me.
Here are some fast facts about hunger and the Central Illinois Foodbank:
- 1 in 4 children go to bed hungry every night.
- Central Illinois Foodbank (CIFB, henceforth) will distribute 8.5 million pounds of food this year.
- Of that 8.5 million, 1.5 million will be in produce
- They serve 150 agencies in 21 counties in Illinois
- 14 people work at CIFB to make all that happen
- They run a Kids Cafe to serve hot meals once a day at 2 different sites
- Mobile pantries get food from them to serve 6 counties
- When they hold mobile pantry days they take 12,000 pounds of food of which each recipient will get 50 lbs each
- Many of those people will stand in line for 3-4 hours each time
- They work with the Springfield Milers, a motorcycle group, to help distribute food. They let the kids climb on motorcycles and Kaleigh says that the children love it when they visit.
The food bank never knows what donations they'll get. Sometimes, it's great stuff like vegetable stock by Giada.
While we visited after our tour, Kaleigh and I talked about some of our favorite documentaries around food: King Corn, Forks Over Knives, and Food, Inc. We talked about our boyfriends, our homes, our commutes to work. Kaleigh reached out to me and she didn't have to do that. Because she took the time to connect with me I can tell that my partnership with the food bank will be long and that it is probably way past time for me to give back in this way. We brainstormed on ways to get local chefs involved in creating menus out of the kinds of foods that are normally donated by grocery stores and big chain stores because I am all about being creative. (The Cuban will read that as: I am all about being bossy about the creative foods he cooks for me.) She let me go off on a blathering tangent about how to get my friends and other people in the community involved in what they do.
People are awesome, aren't they? Kaleigh certainly is.