Photo of Peoria Area Food Bank by Tim Rosenberger.
As the people of Peoria figure out what to do with all their leftover Halloween Snickers, Tootsie Rolls and gum, thousands in the area are struggling to find even the basic food needs, never mind candy. That is where non-profit organizations like the Food Bank come in.
The Peoria Area Food Bank opened its doors in 1984 to aid in providing crucial dietary and nutritional foods to those of low-income. It now serves eight counties: Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford, Fulton, Mason, McLean, DeWitt and Livingston, helping 60,000-70,000 people a month get much needed food. The organization is one of the many programs of the Peoria Citizens Committee for Economic Opportunity, Inc., which is itself a Community Action Agency.
Barb Shreves, director of the PAFB for the past four years and part of PAFB in general for 11 years, says the 116 pantries throughout the eight counties continue to see new people every day.
“It just seems to be growing,” Shreves said. “Our pantries continuingly tell us that they run out of food [and] that they have new people coming in all the time needing food on an emergency basis, and of course our pantries don’t turn anybody away.”
Shreves thinks the increasing number of food pantry patrons is a sign of the times. Many people who come through the doors have barely enough money to pay rent, utilities and their children’s school bills, leaving little money for groceries.
The Food Bank could not do what they do without the pantries, Shreves says. The pantries are made up of caring people who do not like to see people go hungry, and they help raise money to buy more food.
Another way the Food Bank raises money is through its many food drives, which are done year around but are in full force from November until the end of Christmas. The drives are run by people and local business throughout the eight counties.
During these drives, Shreves likes to stress cash donations as opposed to food since the Food Bank can get more for their dollar than the ordinary citizen. The organization works with various vendors across the country in order to make this cheaper rate possible.
If you want to volunteer at the Food Bank, you can call it at (309) 671-3906 and ask for Shreves or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Volunteers tend to do jobs like packing and unpacking boxes, stuffing envelopes, going to local food pantries to help distribute food and whatever other jobs can be found for them to do.
The bank cannot take many volunteers at a time due to its limited space, the optimal number being around four to five during the winter.
To donate food, you can drop it off at the Food Bank located at 721 W. McBean St., Peoria or you can go to the bank’s website at https://www.pcceo.org/index.cfm and click on the donate button.
Over 3 million pounds of food will be used up by the end of the year, Shreves says.
With the ever growing demand for more and more food, pantries need all the food they can get. “They [pantries] hand out food until it’s gone,” Shreves said. “They can’t do anything else. They just continue, and thank goodness we try to keep food on our shelves. The food flies out of here, too, [though]. So, we’re all just very grateful for what we have, and [we] just try to keep enough food on the shelves to supply the people. But unfortunately, when it’s gone it’s gone.”