BATAVIA – State Treasurer Dan Rutherford and state Sen. Karen McConnaughay traded friendly barbs Monday before storming the aisles of Jewel-Osco in Batavia to stock two local food pantries with more than $2,000 worth of groceries.
After six minutes had passed, each had filled several carts with more than $1,000 worth of nonperishable foods. Rutherford, who said this year was the first time he had participated in the Kane County Farm Bureau’s 12th annual Food Check-Out Challenge, beat his opponent by filling carts with $1,174.56 worth of food to benefit the Batavia Interfaith Food Pantry.
Rutherford said he purchased items that he likes and items he’s never heard of before. He joked that one of the secrets to his shopping success is having big hands.
“It’s all for a good cause,” he said. “It adds a bit of levity while trying to call attention to a need we have.”
McConnaughay, R-South Elgin, gathered $1,033.17 worth of products to donate to the Food for Greater Elgin pantry. She participated in the Food Check-Out Challenge in 2005.
“Never in anybody’s imagination did we think we’d see the day there would be such a dramatic increase in the need for food,” she said.
McConnaughay and Rutherford had five minutes to fill carts with nonperishable canned foods, along with foods containing corn, soy and wheat. They got a bonus minute from the farm bureau before scanning and checking out.
Linda Dahms, director of the Batavia Interfaith Food Pantry, said the food gathered Monday will provide about two weeks’ worth of food for about 1,600 people whom the pantry serves each month.
“I’ve seen the need grow in the last four years,” she said. “It’s more than doubled in the last couple years.”
Dahms said the food pantry serves at least 30 new families each month. The pantry served a record 450 families in November. Dahms said on average, 380 families use the pantry monthly.
The groceries in McConnaughay’s cart will help feed the 1,000 families who use the Food for Greater Elgin pantry each month. Sue Ericson, executive director of the pantry, said having that much food is a huge help.
Christopher Strupp said in Kane County, one in nine people are at risk of hunger, and of those at risk, one in five are children.
He said most of the food bank’s partners have noticed as much as a 50 percent increase in people using their facilities in the past couple of years.
“We don’t see that decreasing anytime soon,” he said.
It was at the Food Check-Out Challenge that the Kane County Farm Bureau announced its Million Meal Challenge – a drive that sets the goal of donating the equivalent of 1 million meals to local food pantries through hunger relief efforts such as the Food Check-Out Challenge.
Steve Arnold, manager of the Kane County Farm Bureau, said the farm bureau has donated the equivalent of about 700,000 meals through its hunger relief efforts through the years. He said in honor of the farm bureau’s centennial, the organization aims to bring that number up to 1 million by the end of the year.
“The bottom line is our association is all about farms and farms are all about food,” he said.
“Those are issues we’re concerned about in our communities.”