Eastern Illinois Foodbank Foodmobile expands service


NORMAL, Ill. (WCIA) – The Eastern Illinois Foodbank Foodmobile at Normal West High School has expanded its service.

“When the pandemic shut things down, this didn’t shut down. We actually operated through the winter outside, because we felt so strongly about it,” Unit 5 Communications Director, Dayna Brown said.

Volunteers like Dayna Brown are helping end food insecurity across the state, and they’re doing it one donation at a time. September is Hunger Action Month and WCIA-3’s parent company, Nexstar Media Group, and the Eastern Illinois Foodbank are teaming up to raise awareness. It’s about more than food. It’s about partnerships.

Eastern Illinois Foodbank delivered more than 11.7-million pounds of food in 2020, and drivers like Karl Ohlsson cover 18 counties. They sometimes sacrifice their weekends to help feed families.

“I don’t mind working 6 days. It gets me out early during the week,” Ohlsson said.

Ohlsson has been driving the Foodmobile for nearly 5 years, and volunteers recently expanded service to twice a month in hopes of ending hunger.

“It’s a pretty good feeling. It’s gone by pretty fast. It doesn’t seem like 5 years. We unload the pallets and put it on tables, and people walk through and grab what they can get,” Ohlsson said.

Dayna Brown said the pandemic has had a big impact on families. Brown says she’s happy to offer in-person services again after they adapted to a drive-thru option at the height of COVID.

“I think the number of people affected by food insecurity is much higher than we think, and one thing we noticed during COVID is a lot of our families who have never needed help were able to take advantage of some of the offerings of the Eastern Illinois Foodbank Foodmobile,” Brown said.

Despite the sacrifice, Brown says it’s well worth it.

“It’s one of the best parts of my job. People are so appreciative, and one of the things that we hear is from Eastern Illinois Foodbank is how kind and gracious all of the people of McLean County are,” Brown said.

Volunteers are also encouraging other people to help.

“Whether we’ve helped 50 people or 250 people, I know that the people who have come out have benefited so greatly from being here that it’s just the most incredible feeling to know that Unit 5 Schools and I have been a part of helping make someone’s week a little better that way,” Brown said.

Volunteers have recently expanded their service to twice a month, and the next Foodmobile event will be held Sept. 28 at Pepperidge Elementary School. All you have to do is show up, and volunteers will help you sign up.

If you’d like to make an impact and help families in need, you can click here.

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