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Batavia check-out challenge garners more than $2,000 worth of food for local pantries

BATAVIA – Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke started grabbing jars of spaghetti sauce and cans of tuna and put them in his grocery cart as fast as he could.

Schielke wasn’t shopping for himself, however, at the Batavia Jewel-Osco store Monday. Schielke and State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Aurora, were participating in the Kane County Farm Bureau’s 13th annual Food Check-Out Challenge.

Schielke was shopping for the Batavia Interfaith Food Pantry and Kifowit shopped for the Marie Wilkinson Food Pantry in Aurora. Appropriately enough, Schielke was pushing a cart decorated in red and gold, the colors of the Batavia Bulldogs.

Schielke and Kifowit were given five minutes to collect as much nonperishable food as they could. All the food was bought by the Kane County Farm Bureau and donated to the two food pantries.

Linda Dahms-Firth, director of the Batavia Interfaith Food Pantry, was assisting Schielke during the shopping spree, and Kifowit was assisted by Diane Renner, director of the Marie Wilkinson Food Pantry.

As time started to wind down, they were given three more minutes to collect more groceries. During the waning minutes, Schielke grabbed some cans of chili and bags of flour. He had a good idea of where everything was located.

“I shop here,” Schielke said. “I kind of knew where stuff was.”

For Schielke, life came full circle by his participation in the check-out challenge.

“I broke ground for the store in 1990,” he said.

Kifowit ended up inching out Schielke in the challenge by collecting $1,273.87 worth of food for Marie Wilkinson Food Pantry, compared to Schielke’s total of $1,227.56.

She attributed her gym shoes as helping contribute to her win.

“Tennis shoes do give you an advantage,” Kifowit said. “My other shoes were too dressy.”

Kane County Farm Bureau’s shopping sprees have donated more than $25,000 in groceries since 2001 for local food pantries.

“It does make a difference,” Kane County Farm Bureau Board President Joe White said.

The shopping spree complements Kane County’s “Harvest for ALL” program to benefit local food pantries. In 2013, 71 farmers and agriculture businesses participated in that program, with pledges and donations topping $43,000.

In 2012, the Kane County Farm Bureau determined the cumulative effect of its hunger relief efforts had topped the equivalent of 700,000 meals.

At the Kane County Farm Bureau’s Centennial Celebration in September, the organization surpassed the equivalent of one million meals provided to local food pantries and the Northern Illinois Food Bank.

Dahms-Firth said the donation to the Batavia Interfaith Food Pantry was much appreciated.

“We take care of 370 families a month,” she said. “We are getting more new people in. We see a lot of people working paycheck to paycheck. They are not making enough to make ends meet.”

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