Smile Politely

Local group targets childhood hunger

Friends Against Children’s Empty Tummies (FACET) was born from the hard work of Ana Vieira. And, while she is not solely responsible, it has been her time and dedication that has made the organization what it is today.

Vieira, a scientist at the University of Illinois for 12 years, spent time delivering food to homes for the Food Pantry when, one day, she met a single mom with five kids. They had no furniture and food was scarce. One of the kids rejoiced, “We’re gonna eat dinner today!” Vieira knew then that she had to do more to help fight childhood hunger.

Vieira looked into the Great American Bake Sale (GABS), a nationwide effort to raise funds to fight childhood hunger, that is run by Share Our Strength (SOS). “I don’t know if I have many talents, but I can bake, and so can a lot of my friends,” Vieira said. According to her, the funds raised would eventually come back to the host community to sponsor programs for hungry children, but there were a lot of steps that needed to be taken before that could happen.

It was in January 2009, after two successful years of FACET, that Vieira began seeking other other local groups working with childhood hunger to try to make FACET 100 percent local. Otherwise, she was raising the funds through FACET, transferring the money to SOS, and then local agencies had to apply for grants through SOS to get the funds. There was just too much red tape.

It was then that Veira found the Eastern Illinois Foodbank thanks to a suggestion by Robert Rasmus, Pastor at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Urbana. Vieira looked into the Backpack program sponsored by the Foodbank and developed a partnership that would prove to be beneficial for both. Now, all proceeds raised by FACET’s own bake sale event go directly to the Backpack program, putting food in children’s hands in a much more timely manner.

The Backpack program, co-founded in Champaign-Urbana with the Junior League six years ago,  provides weekend groceries to children who have “little agency and flexibility in getting food,” according to Cheryl Precious, the Director of Marketing and Development for the Eastern Illinois Foodbank. What started with 30 kids at Garden Hills has grown to 700 kids per week in 14 counties throughout Eastern Illinois for the 2011–2012 school year. “It seems something so little but it makes a difference,” Vieira added.

The Foodbank has seen rapid growth in the past few years due to increasing demands and higher poverty rates. They provided 6.8 million pounds of food last year and now serve 220 agencies in 14 counties. “We’ve seen a lot of new faces in the system,” Precious said.

Children in Illinois make up one-fourth of the population, but account for one-third of the impoverished population. According to Precious, Champaign County has a higher poverty rate than Cook County. “We have a vision of poverty as an urban problem, but resources are difficult to access in rural communities.”

FACET has helped combat this issue in the micro-urban Champaign-Urbana community with its annual event. They started with a goal of $500 the first year and last year that goal was up to $1,500. They ended up raising over $4,400. Now, in its fifth year, FACET has raised its goal to $5,000, which would sponsor 28 children for the entire school year.

This year’s event comprises both an art show and a bake sale. The 2011 FACET Art Show and Concert will be held Thursday, September 8 at 6:00 p.m. The concert will involve kids themselves, including a quartet from the Bowdacious String Band, who also bake and work at the FACET booth every year.

The art on display at Indigo will be featured photographs from Thomas Jackson of Champaign. Jackson will also donate one of his works for the FACET raffle.

The FACET Bake Sale is on Saturday, September 10 at the Market at the Square. FACET’s booth spans six market spots and will offer an array of treats: pepperoni bread, Norwegian Krumkake, German berry pies, rugelach, and scones, to name a few. “We really pull all the stops in offering really off-the-beaten-path goodies that go way beyond your childhood’s chocolate chip cookies and brownies bake sale,” Vieira said.

Tickets for the FACET raffle and event will be available at the Foodbank’s booth at Urbana’s Market at the Square starting this Saturday.

“Every year this community helps us to reach our goal and beyond and it is indeed rewarding and humbling all at the same time. I hope to have packed events again this year and that we can, once again, make a dent on this horrible trend which is childhood hunger in America,” Vieira said.

For more information about FACET please see their Facebook page.

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