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If you’re a religious believer with a holiday to celebrate or a non-believer with a spirit for giving, you’ve likely thought about making a charitable donation this month.

As everyone knows, there is a huge and unknown number of charities that need and deserve more money. That said (as it always is and has to be when talking about charitable giving), consider a donation to the Eastern Illinois Food Bank, regardless of what you’ve already given or plan to give to other organizations.

Last year, the food bank distributed approximately five million pounds of food throughout 14 counties in east central Illinois. According to Lisa Bralts, director of marketing and development for the food bank, they probably won’t be able reach that amount this year “unless something major happens in donated food.”

This isn’t to say that the food bank hasn’t been successful in raising funds or that the community hasn’t been there with support — the food bank exceeded its monetary goal to raise $65,000 during its “Food for Families” drive this fall.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t change the fact that our community’s food bank and food banks across the country haven’t been getting enough. According to America’s Second Harvest, the food bank network for the United States, the nation’s faltering economy and the rising prices of food and fuel have led to a shortage of 11.5 million pounds of food bank donations nationwide, and that’s only through the end of 2007. At the Eastern Illinois Food Bank, they’re about 300,000 pounds short of where they were last year.

“The community has always been incredibly generous, and this year’s drive was no exception, but it’s been harder to get food in the building overall for months,” Bralts says.

The Illinois Food Bank Association estimates that 7.9 percent of people in Illinois don’t know where their next meal is coming from. When applied to the most recent population estimates for Champaign County, that works out to nearly 15,000 people. (And that’s just one of 14 counties, remember, that the food bank feeds.)

Small contributions go far for food banks. Every dollar donated to the Eastern Illinois Food Bank is stretched to distribute $10 (or ten pounds) of food, a ratio that reflects the cost balance of storing, transporting and distributing mostly donated or discounted food, according to Bralts.

If you have money to give, visit the Eastern Illinois Food Bank’s website and make a secure donation before the end of the year — every dollar goes ten times further in helping alleviate hunger in our community this winter.

Photo by Justine Bursoni