Food bank gets grant for more mobile sites, culturally-diverse options

The Morning Show

CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Food insecurity affects thousands of families here in Central Illinois. That’s why Eastern Illinois Food Bank (EIF) staff will be leaving the warehouse and hitting the road to reach more people directly.

EIF Vice President Molly Delaney says the goal is “to be able to go into small rural communities and disproportionately affected neighborhoods.”

EIF will be able to do just that thanks to a $417,000 grant from Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund.

“We’re purchasing a beverage truck, which is smaller. The sides roll up and it’s refrigerated,” says Delaney.

This will help EIF staff add 50 mobile food distribution sites in rural towns — places they wouldn’t be able to reach otherwise. The truck will travel to the undeserved areas with the food distributed directly from it.

But a new set of wheels isn’t the only thing money can buy.

We’ve all heard the saying that food is medicine. There might be a go-to meal that you eat when you’re sick. That’s why part of this new initiative includes expanding the food bank’s inventory for better health benefits.

CUPHD Deputy Administrator Awais Vaid co-founded the Friends of Champaign County Food Pantry. He’s helping bring more culturally-diverse food options to EIF for groups of people that have been most impacted by the pandemic.

“More than half the population that we serve…is traditionally non-white: African-Americans, Hispanics, Guatemalans, Asians,” says Vaid. “In the beginning, we were assuming what they wanted to eat. So, we were providing them those things. We very quickly learned that different cultures have different needs.”

Vaid says swapping out bread for tortillas or pita, and adding more avocados and mangoes to a basic fruit basket can go a long way.

“We are going to learn from what they need. We are going to make that effort to provide them what they need,” says Vaid.

Some of the areas the EIF truck will travel to include Danville neighborhoods, as well as McLean, Coles, and Jasper counties. EIF formed an advisory group to help map out other destinations and oversee new product selection.

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