Mobile food pantry rolling in for final service day

Carole Hodorowicz, Verge Reporter

The final Service Day hosted by the Volunteer Office will be with the Mobile Food Pantry this Saturday.

Beth Gillespie, interim director of Civic Engagement and Volunteerism, said the food insecurity in Coles County is higher than anywhere else in the state.

Food insecurity is when people do not know when their next meal will be.

Gillespie said families from all over the area will come to the Mobile Pantry.

Gillespie said even though the kids of these families have eaten at school, they do not know if there will be a meal at home.

“You could come home and have a bag of Cheetos,” Gillespie said, emphasizing that dinner for these families is not always nutritionally adequate.

Crystal Brown, assistant director of Civic Engagement and Volunteerism, said students volunteering are responsible for helping families pick out enough food for their family size.

Brown said the Mobile Food Pantry has the “staple items,” such as canned vegetables and fruit, pasta, and sometimes even dessert.

The volunteer office is not a stranger to the food pantry.

Brown said the office has worked closely with the food bank by helping run the Charleston Food Pantry on Thursday nights.

Gillespie’s husband, Michael Gillespie, works in sociology and focuses his research on food insecurity.

She said he is a huge advocate and a captain for the Eastern Illinois Food Bank and Mobile Pantry.

Almost every weekend, the Mobile Food Pantry visits a different location and 30 volunteers are required to run it.

“EIU students are an incredible resource in the community,” Gillespie said. “When we come together, we make things happen.”

The service day begins at 8:30 a.m. and will finish by noon.

Gillespie said she hopes this service opportunity will impact student volunteers.

“I’m hoping the students will have an experience with our office and they’ll go out and see that by volunteering, they are directly impacting our community,” Gillespie said.

Gillespie said this will be a powerful experience because volunteers are “literally putting food on the table for our neighbors.”

“This is going to be a year-round need,” Gillespie said. “People need food.”

She said she is interested in incorporating the Mobile Food Pantry into more service days, like Jumpstart 2 G.I.V.E, which is the service day all incoming freshman and transfer students are required to participate in.

Gillespie said community service is an understanding that everyone is going to need help at some point during their lives.

“When we are supporting each other, we are collectively going to have a stronger and healthier community,” Gillespie said.

Students interested in volunteering at the Mobile Food Pantry this Saturday can still sign up at the Civic Engagement and Volunteerism office.

Transportation will be available.

Gillespie said this strong and healthy community can be achieved if “we are just willing to give a little bit of our time and our hearts and energy to those around us.”

Carole Hodorowicz can be reached at 581-2812 [email protected]