SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) – The Central Illinois Foodbank unveiled its formal nutrition policy during a news conference Friday in honor of Hunger Action Day.
The new policy places food items the food bank receives into three different categories: green for foods that should be eaten often such as fruits and vegetables, yellow for foods that should be eaten sometimes such as rice and pasta, and red for foods people should eat rarely such as cookies and chips.
“We want to be part of a community that is well, that has good health,” Pam Molitoris, the Executive Director of the Central Illinois Foodbank, said. “We want to be very thoughtful in the food that we secure, and the food that we put out in our 21 counties.”
The policy will not ban any items, but the food bank, established in 1982, will prioritize donations for foods that fall under the green and yellow categories.
“This is not about the food bank telling people what they can eat,” Molitoris said. “This is about the food bank providing access to healthy foods, and then people make their own choices.”
The University of Illinois Extension helped put the policy together. They’re also buying three extra kitchen carts that they, along with the food bank and other groups, will use.
“We’re hoping [that] next summer, [we’ll] get them at the farmers market every Wednesday or Saturday and have cooking demos there,” Kayla Swaar, a SNAP educator at the University of Illinois Extension, said. “I’m also hoping to get them at more of the schools, some of the mobile markets with other churches or the schools on weekends.”
But the food bank isn’t solely focused on offering healthy food to the community. September is Hunger Action Month, which is an effort to combat food insecurity nationwide. The food bank is raising awareness about the problem.
“[Our] food bank cannot do it by itself, nor the 150 partners that we work with,” Molitoris said. “It takes everyone in the community to work together, to build awareness, to bring food in, to have other financial resources to make sure that we’re feeding our neighbors 365 days a year.”
The COVID-19 pandemic worsened food insecurity. According to the Illinois Department of Human Services, during the pandemic, food assistance applications soared while food banks worked to keep up with people’s growing need for food.
Molitoris said their food bank faced some challenges as well.
“We’re dealing with the same issues everyone else is, in terms of supply chain issues, in terms of labor, and in terms of costs,” Molitoris said. “What the pandemic has really taught us is that we just have to be really nimble, and be willing to turn on a dime.”
Every year, the food bank gives 12 million pounds of food to more than 150 soup kitchens, food pantries, residential programs, and after-school programs.