Teens inspired to fight hunger
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 25, 2018
Lunch took on a new meaning at the Illinois 4-H Hunger Summit held Sept. 21-23 in Normal. Sponsored by University of Illinois Extension, the summit was the first statewide training to prepare 4-H teens to tackle hunger issues in their local communities.
When the 60 participants opened their lunchboxes Saturday, many were surprised, said Bill Million, Illinois Extension 4-H youth development specialist. Some boxes contained an abundance of food; others just a banana or a bag of chips.
Deana McDonagh, U of I professor of industrial design, said the activity helps teens put themselves in the role of the people they hope to help. “If you don’t put the person in the center of your planning,” McDonagh said, “you’re not going to make an impact.”
The activity prepared the youth for their weekend goal as 4-H Hunger Ambassadors: designing a plan to address hunger in their local community. Participants at the summit included Rachel Fishburn, Sangamon County 4-H member, and Katie Lynn and Sarah Starasta, who are members of Logan County 4-H. In addition to the hunger simulation, teens toured Midwest Food Bank, a 100,000 square-foot food distribution center in Normal.
David Keiser and his farming family started the food bank in a 9,600 square-foot building on their farm. The response was overwhelming and the need was great. Today, the new facility in Normal services 275 agencies monthly. Besides food pantries across the state, Midwest also responds to disasters, working through the Salvation Army and Red Cross to package boxes which provide a family of four with a week’s worth of supplies.
Most of the workers are volunteers. The Hunger Summit participants spent two hours repackaging bulk boxes of granola into family sized, vacuum-sealed sacks. The group packaged 1,500 bags.
Many 4-H groups are already making a difference in their communities. The Olympia Pacesetters 4-H Club of McLean County operates the Helping Hands food pantry and clothing exchange center in Stanford. The food pantry has scheduled hours and also includes an emergency mini food pantry outside the center. The metal pantry was built as a 4-H welding project by a 4-H club member. People are encouraged to take what they need, or drop off food when they have excess.
Teens investigated the issues of hunger, such as lack of transportation to stores, cost of healthy food options, food portions and waste, and the lack of media attention. Participants said they were not aware of many of the problems faced by those in need.
The Illinois 4-H Foundation provided financial support for the event.
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