Volunteers pitch in to help mobile food pantry

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

An estimated 150 families took advantage of the generosity of area farmers on July 22. The Mercer County Farm Bureau hosted its annual Mobile Food Bank at Central Park.

Anyone who wanted to was allowed to help themselves to the free food. There were no income guidelines. The program is paid for through the Illinois Farm Bureau's "Bushels for Hunger" program. Farmers donate bushels of corn and soybeans to help fight hunger in the area. Last year, farmers in the five-county area of Mercer, Rock Island, Stark, Henry and Whiteside donated more than $21,000 worth of corn and soybeans to the River Bend Foodbank.

Bill Sopira of Aledo said the food bank is vital.

"For some people, it means they're going to be able to eat today," Sopira said. "It doesn't mean that for everyone, but for more than you'd think."

It takes a lot of volunteers to ensure the program goes off without a hitch. Kendra Bolen, manager of the Mercer County Farm Bureau, was not sure how many people turned out to help but guessed there were "about 30 volunteers. I don't know. There's a lot of kids."

She said the young people were mostly from the Community Bible Youth Group and the 4-H Federation. The Mercer County Food Pantry and other groups also helped.

Bolen said the food goes a long way.

"They said each mobile food pantry gives out about 10,000 meals," she said.

Mike Zecher, an area farmer who serves on the Mercer County Farm Bureau's Board of Directors, said he wasn't sure what to expect.

"This is the first year I've actually been able to help," Zecher said. "It's one of the projects we want to support."

Elizabeth Ray of Millersburg said she or her husband have been at each of the past three mobile food pantries in Aledo.

"I think it's awesome," Ray said, "because our cupboards are empty more than they're full. I like the fresh vegetables. The other things are good, too."