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Illinois Feds Feed Families

USDA Rural Development State Director Colleen Callahan presents food (on cart, foreground) donated by the state office in Champaign, Ill., to staff at Eastern Illinois Foodbank:  (from left) Cheryl Precious, director of marketing and development; Jim Hires, executive director; State Director  Callahan  and Matt Pieper, transportation supervisor.

USDA Rural Development State Director Colleen Callahan presents food (on cart, foreground) donated by the state office in Champaign, Ill., to staff at Eastern Illinois Foodbank: (from left) Cheryl Precious, director of marketing and development; Jim Hires, executive director; State Director Callahan and Matt Pieper, transportation supervisor.

Would you leave corporate America to work for a non-profit?  Jim Hires did when he became the Executive Director of the Eastern Illinois Foodbank.  How did I meet him?  We met when I accompanied Illinois Rural Development State Director Colleen Callahan to drop off the state office’s donation to the food bank.  And why were we there?  To support the Feds, Farmers and Friends Feed Families food drive, of course!

This summer, the USDA agencies across the nation are participating in a food drive called Feds, Farmers and Friends Feed Families (F5).  The F5 drive comes at a crucial time of year, because summer is the time of highest demand for emergency food.  Why?  School’s out for the summer and children are not able to obtain meals from the school nutrition programs.  A national goal of donating 1.2 million pounds of food was set when the drive kicked off in June. 

USDA Rural Development is no exception for participation in the food drive.  In a state-wide effort, Illinois Rural Development local offices donated over 1,300 pounds of grocery products to various food shelters and pantries.  The state office in Champaign alone contributed over 175 pounds of food and gave it to the food bank, a non-profit warehouse that collects and distributes food and grocery products to programs serving the hungry.  The food bank does not directly serve individual clients, though.

When we arrived, the state director and I were greeted by Executive Director Hires, and Cheryl Precious, director of marketing and development.  After we unloaded our food donation, the state director and I had the opportunity to find out more about the food bank.  “It’s a great business model,” said Hires, “I work with the best people,” he said as he pointed to Precious. 

“It’s easy to stay motivated when this is your job,” replied Precious.  As she explained how working at the food bank was a rewarding experience, I realized what an impact the food bank has on individuals and families in eastern Illinois.  They serve over 220 agencies in 14 counties in Illinois with food and grocery products that provide food for more than 43,000 people in need each month!  The workers and volunteers are dedicating their jobs to helping alleviate hunger in eastern Illinois.  It was truly inspirational to learn about how the food we donated could be used to help so many in need. 

The Feds, Farmers and Friends Feed Families food drive will run until August 31, 2010.

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