(The Center Square) – The Illinois Farm Bureau’s Young Leaders are stepping up to help those who go hungry during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“One in six children in Illinois struggles with food security,” said Drew DeSutter, a Knox County farmer and District 8 Young Leader Committee member of the Illinois Farm Bureau. “As a farmer, to me personally, that hits close to home because my job is to provide a safe, affordable and abundant food supply. And when I hear of people not having food on the table, that that really hits close to home. I want to see everyone have food security.”
One way his group did that, DeSutter said, was to raise funds for Harvest for All, an annual farm bureau project which supports eight regional food banks covering the entire state of Illinois.
“We take on Harvest for All every year,” he said. “Then you add in this pandemic that we’re going through, and the economic uncertainty across the countryside, whether you’re in an urban area or a rural area, (you have) been hit very hard.”
DeSutter said that food security is “something that we can put in the forefront of our organization.”
Aaron Mitchell, District 2 committee member, explained in a telephone interview that most years the group uses March Madness as a fundraising tool.
“People will fill out a bracket; they put in a little money and whoever wins the bracket challenge gets to take the pool of money to the food bank of their choice,” he said.
With March Madness canceled this year, they decided to take donations through Facebook, Mitchell said.
“We knew with everyone being home that social media would be a great way to be able to reach people, since there’s more social media now than ever before,” he said. “Because that’s about all most people can do right now.”
So the Young Leaders set up a donation site on their Facebook page, including information on each regional food bank, and members spread the word through their personal pages. The farm bureau is committed to matching the first $1,000 for each regional bank.
“Farmers are very generous people,” De Sutter said. “Most farmers would give the shirt off their back for others. And when it comes to food security, I know that’s an issue that hits close to home because that’s what we’re essentially doing – raising our crops and livestock to be turned into food for others.”