Central Illinois Foodbank- The Blog

Central Illinois Foodbank, established in 1982, distributes over 8 million pounds of food annually to over 150 food pantries, soup kitchens, residential programs and after-school programs in a 21 county region. Central Illinois Foodbank is a member of Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger relief organization. The mission of the Foodbank is to collect donated food and grocery items from growers, manufacturers, processors, wholesalers and retailers for distribution to charitable agencies serving people in need.
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Blogger Council Member: Kasey Schwartz of All Things Mamma

School may be in session, but it’s still Summer here in Central, Illinois!  The temps were a little mild last week, but they’re warming back up this week so I’m not ready to break out the soup pots and hearty meals just yet!  We love to make our meals light and from the freshest ingredients we can find and this time of year is perfect for that!  Lots of veggies are in season, so that means they are more affordable and if we’re really lucky, we have a kind friend or neighbor drop off a little of their bounty for us to share!

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Guest Post: A Recipe from Vickie at Make Life Special.

Make Life Special features easy and creative recipes for BUSY people.  All of the recipes have only a few ingredients, everything is readily available at your local grocery store and the finished dish is delicious!  Taco Ziti Pasta is a great example of a MakeLifeSpecial.com recipe. 

This can be prepared quickly and only bakes 15 minutes in the oven.  It makes a great weeknight dinner or use my success secret and turn this pasta into company fare!

Boil the pasta in lightly salted water until cooked - about 10 minutes.

While the pasta is boiling, brown the ground beef and drain. Mix in taco seasoning packet and 1 cup of water and cook for 5 minutes.

Add cream cheese to the beef mixture and stir until cheese is melted. Remove from the heat.

Put the pasta into a greased 10 X 7 inch baking dish. Top with 1 cup of the Mexican taco cheese and gently stir.

Top the pasta/cheese mixture with the beef mixture and mix gently to combine. Top with the remaining 1 cup of Mexican taco cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.

Watch the Make Life Special Cooking Channel video for this recipe:   

Taco Ziti Pasta

From the PR Lady: Having a Garden is Hard Work

This is a photo of the home garden in my backyard that has proven to be much more challenging than I had anticipated. I think it’s important to acknowledge the challenges of gardening—it makes us appreciate our community gardeners and farmers just a little bit more knowing what goes into it.

Here are some of the obstacles I’ve encountered:

1. Starting from scratch: digging. We used a sod cutter to first remove the grass, and then spent several hours hoeing up the soil to break up the soil. We realized it was going to need to be tilled if we wanted the soil to be manageable, so we tilled it up. Now the soil was so crumbly and soft you’d think it was a sandbox. Perfect!

2. SO. MUCH. RAIN.The garden (with the small dips created by removing the sod) soon became a small pond after several days of rain. In removing the top layer of grass, we’d taken out a bit too much soil along with it.

3. Starting over. After all those days of rain, it finally dried up on a hot afternoon. But now, what used to be nice crumbly topsoil was a hard, cracked-surface plot again. Back to hoeing the whole thing up.

4. Finally, the seeds went in in late May. Some went in as small plants due to the late start. Each wooden rod was labeled with the seed that had been planted in the row, and each corner got a stake to wrap fishing wire around as an invisible fence. The rabbits were looking very interested in this new grocery store…

So, the short version is that gardening isn’t always going to look like it does on the commercial. Gardening takes a lot of sweat, patience, and attention. I’ve got a new appreciation for our gardeners and farmers who do this on a much larger scale. It will be worth it end the end to have this healthy, fresh food in my back yard and to be able to share with neighbors, but it certainly hasn’t been easy.

Blogger Council Member Kelly Wickam of MochaMomma.com is living below the line this week. What’s that? Read on…

I begin my journey of spreading awareness of worldwide hunger by vowing to live on $1.50 a day for meals. To do this required a lot of planning, visiting a grocery store I rarely go to (Aldi) and plucking things from the garden though not a lot has sprung up already. Today’s meals will include ramen from Aldi’s that I bought for $1.69 for 12, chicken broth, and water to drink. Naturally, I will be soooo over ramen after this week.

To prepare for this mentally, I’ve been watching videos on the Live Below the Line YouTube channel to see how others are going about it. I watched this video of Sister Sparrow (the band) (though, if I were more awesome than I am then I would have named one of my children “Sister Sparrow”) as they prepared to Live Below the Line with me next week. In fact, there are a couple other folks joining me as well.

Dresden wrote about it already on her blog for Babble

Jessica at Found the Marbles has some factual information about Live Below the Line.

Also joining me are my friends HeatherLaurie and Morra as well as a few celebrities (Ben Affleck, Sophia Bush) and a politician (Hunter Biden). These people all wear many hats.

Read more on her blog.

GUEST POST: Blogger Council member Courtney Westlake of Blessed by Brenna.

It started with a dinner…a feast, more accurately…with food from MCL Cafeteria piled high in the waiting room right outside of the NICU entrance, carefully unpacked from to-go containers by three of our closest friends on the first night I was able to visit my daughter Brenna in the hospital after she was born with a rare skin disease.

And then it grew, first from friends and family and then from strangers across the country. After Brenna’s birth and subsequent 5-week hospital stay, help began pouring in for our family in all forms, even in ways that we didn’t know we needed.

As Brenna’s lifelong condition has handed us many ups and downs, with surgeries, hospitalizations and illnesses, the support we have received from others has remained stable.

The kindness we encountered during our journey of praying for our daughter’s survival, bringing her home and watching her fight through many obstacles is still completely overwhelming and humbling to me, 15 months after her birth. From friends cleaning our house and doing our laundry, to family members babysitting our son Connor during hospital visits, to strangers sending money to help pay for medical needs, to someone dropping off a cup of my favorite coffee from Starbucks…generosity and thoughtfulness was alive everywhere we turned.

Not only did Brenna prove to be an inspiration to our family, and to so many others, but others became an inspiration to us. Because of the community outreach, we have learned what it truly means to be empathetic, to be generous, to put yourself in someone’s shoes and give of yourself in ways that you would want to be treated in the same situation.

Brenna has taught us so much in her short 15 months on this earth. But there are other lessons that have been instilled into our family during that time as well, as shown to us by the kindness of others.

It’s very easy to get caught up in the mundane of daily life – the schedules to adhere to, the dinners to make, the commitments to keep. But there are few things more important in life than helping another person, whether it’s giving your time, your money or simply a heartfelt note to say you’re thinking of them with words of encouragement. I will tell you firsthand how much a thoughtful gesture or message can lift up someone in need, to give them the strength to keep going or change their attitude to a positive one.

For us, help began with a meal…and will be carried on forever as we strive to continue the circle of kindness that others showed to our family.

Now that spring is here, many people have started thinking about planting a garden.

It seems like any time you plant a garden, at some point there’s just more than one can handle. If you’re planting a garden this season, consider donating the excess to your local food pantry or the Foodbank—don’t let that hard work go to waste! You can even plant an extra row specifically for that purpose.

For more information on finding a local pantry, visit our website.

Vanessa, of VanessaCares.org, and daughter of Blogger Council Member Kim Leistner of SpringfieldMoms.org, collected food instead of presents on her birthday! We love to see kids like Vanessa giving back. Way to go!
Read more here.

Vanessa, of VanessaCares.org, and daughter of Blogger Council Member Kim Leistner of SpringfieldMoms.org, collected food instead of presents on her birthday! We love to see kids like Vanessa giving back. Way to go!

Read more here.

I always find myself coming back to kids when I think of food being donated at the Foodbank. Once it leaves here, it heads out to 145 different agencies in 21 counties. And then it goes to seniors, adults, and children.

But kids are tough, you know? Sometimes they’re picky—it’s just their nature. Maybe it’s a texture issue or something just doesn’t taste right to their tiny taste buds.

When it comes to food drives for kids, you have to think like a kid. What did you like to eat when you were little? Was it cereal bars, or oranges, or fruit snacks?

With 1 in 4 children being food insecure in our region, we have to think about kids. We have to think about making sure there’s no rumbling stomachs in the classroom, and no child wondering if there’s going to be dinner when they get home.

Food drive idea: Model after INB’s “Snack Drive” and collect kid-friendly snacks. Try to stick to healthy items that are individually packaged so they can slip it in their backpack or grab it on the go.

GUEST POST-Blogger Council: Margie Brill of MySpringfieldMommy.com.

Teaching kids the value of giving back.

Teaching children the value of giving back to the community is something that all parents want to do.  To get started, you have to ask yourself at what age are children able to understand the need for help and at what level are they able to help. 

Being the mother of a five-year-old daughter, I have found that she is ready, willing and able to help— which leaves my question to what cause will hold her interest.  After talking to my husband, we agreed it would be best to ask her what she would like to do.  So we talked about helping with animals at the local shelter, visiting residents at the local nursing home, and of course helping our local food bank.  We also explained to her that some people like to volunteer their time while others find they like to donate items such as clothing and food.  We gave her a few days to think it over and after asking a few questions she decided that she wanted to go through her old toys, “You know…the baby ones,” and give them to some younger children who needed them.

A few days later, I was sharing this story with a friend who told me they have done several things in their home to encourage her children to pay it forward.  A few of those ideas included:

Going to a few different places, like the food bank, nursing home, or animal shelter to let your children see the level of need in the community first hand.  Perhaps even set up a time that your child can talk to some of the employees or volunteers and even those who benefit from the services.

You can also encourage your children to get their friends involved.  Maybe they can have a bake sale or rummage sale. The possibilities are endless… just as long as the profits made are used to help others.

If your child has a talent—use it!  For example, if they enjoy cooking, see if they can help prepare a meal at the local nutrition center.

Never under estimate your children.  Yes, they are young, but they are also open to ideas that we as adults tend to brush off as not possible or not worth it. In many cases it can be the difference between making a difference and sitting back while someone else gets the job done.  When all is said and done, children learn from their parents. Never forget to set a good example and live up to the exceptions that your children place on you.  

From the PR Lady: Kaleigh’s Thoughts on 2012.

I’ve been at the Foodbank for about a year and a half now, and was thinking back on all the things I’ve learned so far in my time here. Here’s a few highlights.

  1. People are kind. Too often we get caught up and dragged down by routines. But consistently, each year, we have people in our community who are excited about the work we do and make wonderful, impactful things happen. 
  2. Never sit still. It’s easy to slump into my desk chair, but I feel best when I’m out speaking to a group or working with our media partners. I can feel the good news spreading and see that twinkle in peoples’ eyes. It energizes me to do more, more, more.
  3. With patience, big things can happen. I never thought we’d be moving into a new building when we started. Now, we’ve had one donated and are retrofitting it, making it a Foodbank. It’s amazing what we can do when we work together.

I have to say, I love this job, the people I work with, and our cause. This is going to be our best year yet.