CHAMPAIGN, Ill., (WCIA) — A group of Illinois football players are helping people in Central Illinois who face hunger every day. 

Amanda Borden, Vice President of Development with the Eastern Illinois Food Bank, said thousands of people and 1 in 5 children face hunger each day in the area.  

Nine players, who are part of Illini Guardians, are helping with the statewide food drive, “Help Tackle Hunger.” 

Illinois alumni John and Bonnie Dauer wanted to start the program through the Illini Guardians to help boost name, image and likeness (NIL) possibilities while working with the community. They said this opportunity will help the athletes make a critical impact. 

Bryce Barnes, Zylon Crisler, Jer’Zhan Newton, Alex Palczewski, Julian Pearl, Alex Pihlstrom, Keith Randolph, Jordyn Slaughter and Jamal Woods are the players working with the Eastern Illinois Foodbank and St. Matthew’s Catholic School in Champaign. 

The athletes will meet in person, at the school to kick off a donation competition across the state, and the Eastern Illinois Foodbank will help with a virtual element. 

“You’re not actually purchasing food items, but you’re still able to put items in your cart,” Borden said. “It’s as though you’re shopping, it’s just all done virtual, and then it’s just a donation, actually a monetary donation, that’s going to help fight hunger in the community.”

Every dollar donated online will buy 10 meals for Illinois families. 

To donate online, visit the Eastern Illinois Foodbank’s website and click “Illini Football” in the dropdown menu.