Eastern Illinois Foodbank celebrates 40 years

May 6—URBANA — Eastern Illinois Foodbank, the primary food source to feeding programs in eastern Illinois, commemorates 40 years of serving years of alleviating hunger this May.

Eastern Illinois Foodbank was formed as part of a major regional effort to develop an emergency food network in central Illinois.

In 1980, a group of 20 local citizens met in Springfield to form a food distribution network that eventually became three independent foodbanks: Central Illinois Foodbank in Springfield, Peoria Area Foodbank and Eastern Illinois Foodbank. In May 1983, Eastern Illinois Foodbank was incorporated, and the following month the foodbank opened its doors in downtown Champaign.

When former Foodbank board chair Vern Fein was asked to join the meeting in 1980, he originally declined, but had a change of heart when he came across a magazine in his office.

"I read that the Detroit Foodbank had recovered 9,000 pounds of frozen butter beans that were spilled on a railroad track due to a collision, and quickly distributed them to those in need. I changed my mind at once and plunged into helping start the foodbank," Fein said.

Today, Eastern Illinois Foodbank is the largest hunger relief organization in eastern Illinois, serving more than one million neighbors each year through a network of 170 partner agencies throughout an 18-county service area. The foodbank recently completed a capital campaign that allows them to expand into a warehouse adjoined to the original facility, enabling them to increase efficiency, accommodate more nutritious and fresh product, and extend the number of people they serve.

The foodbank will be marking this milestone with a celebration in September during Hunger Action Month. The event will recognize individuals and organizations in the community who have had an impact on Eastern Illinois Foodbank's mission of alleviating hunger.

"What the foodbank has accomplished is a reflection of our community. Without their support, we wouldn't have been able to fulfill our mission for the past 40 years," said President and CEO Kelly Daly. "Though so much has changed over the years, the one constant has been the dedication of our volunteers, donors, board, staff and community partners. That is what ensures we are able to meet the growing needs of eastern Illinois and will continue to be a vital resource for years to come."

Through the partner agencies, the foodbank provides meals to more than 1 million people each year. Since 1983, EIF has led the fight against hunger and strengthened communities by providing food access, emergency relief, education and advocacy to families in east-central Illinois. EIF is a member of Feeding America, Feeding Illinois, the United Way of Coles County and the United Way of Champaign County.

For more information, visit eifoodbank.org.