If I get hungry in the summer, I don't have to go further than my yard to find something tasty to eat. When my husband and I bought our house seven years ago, it came equipped with an acre lot full of mature fruit trees, grapevines and a garden plot for growing vegetables. Over the years, we've added strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, and thanks to the rich soil of central Illinois we always have an abundance of fresh, nutritious food to share with family and friends.
Monday, August 2, 2010
After that first meeting a plan began to take shape. Provena would donate the land and seed. University of Illinois Extension would provide agricultural expertise. A local farmer would sow the seed. And several of us would recruit volunteers when it came time to harvest. Although the first meeting took place on a cold day in February. I was warmed by the thought of this garden and the impact it could have on the community. You might have read about plans for the garden in a blog post back in March.
Over the next few months I learned more about the foodbank and the work they do in central Illinois. In February and April my Rotary (C-U Sunrise) organized volunteers for food repacking events at the foodbank, and I participated. Then in March, Illinois Public Media partnered with Common Ground Food Coop and Busey to raise awareness and support for the foodbank during our spring TV pledge drive. The more I learned about Eastern Illinois Foodbank, the more impressed I became with their mission and their staff.
As spring turned into summer, I occasionally thought about the garden. When I noticed corn growing in the fields around my house, I wondered if the sweet corn in the Provena garden was as tall. Then in mid-July I received an email letting me know the sweet corn was almost ready. I forwarded the email to members of my Rotary and organized volunteers into shifts. As a joke, I asked my teenage daughter if she wanted to get up early to help and, to my surprise, she said, "Sure." (She helped with one of the food repacks back in February, and I guess she was as impressed with the foodbank as I was.)
About fifteen of us descended on the cornfields that morning, and before noon we had picked 2,700 lbs. of sweet corn. Added to the 2,700 lbs. picked by volunteers the weekend before, I would say that's a pretty good haul.
On the drive home, my daughter and I were smiling. Although the conditions weren't pleasant, both of us agreed it was a very satisfying experience. Working side-by-side with other people who care about issues like hunger and health was energizing. In spite of the heat we left the fields feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Our time in the corn had given us a new understanding of the phrase, "Will work for food."
Molly Delaney (the author of this post) is educational outreach director for Illinois Public Media and a member of C-U Fit Families and C-U Sunrise Rotary. She encourages others to explore volunteer opportunities at Eastern lllinois Foodbank.
Molly can be reached at email@example.com or 217-333-7300.