April 13, 2011

Student initiates food drive to help local families

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Armed with a national grant, a Southern Illinois University Carbondale student is spearheading a project to give area children fun learning experiences about eating right and exercising as they help collect food to assure local families get enough to eat.

Emily Boyer, a senior Spanish major from Decatur, is a member of the Land of Lincoln AmeriCorps at SIUC and serves at the Boys and Girls Club in Carbondale. She assists children with homework and plans programs for them. Interacting with the youngsters, Boyer discovered that a significant number of Carbondale families live below the poverty level and that more than 40 percent of the children are eligible to participate in the free or reduced price lunch program.

She said she’s noticed that many of the children can’t even afford a quarter or 50 cents for an after-school snack. So, she conceived a plan to help the children in several ways.

“My inspiration comes from those kids that I interact with every day. They deserve whatever the community can provide because they have the potential to have bright futures,” she wrote in her grant application.

The project gets under way on Friday, April 15, Boyer and her fellow AmeriCorps members will be making special presentations at the Carbondale Boys and Girls Club, Thomas School, Lewis School, Unity Point School and De Soto Grade School. They will have fun learning activities for the children that highlight the importance of healthy eating and exercise.

Things really get happening the week of April 18-22. Each day has a theme: Main Dish Monday, Tomato Tuesday, Water Wednesday, Trail Mix Thursday and Fiber Friday. As the children get a creative dose of nutritional education, they’ll bring non-perishable canned goods to their schools all week long.

In addition, SIUC students and staff are welcome to donate by contacting Boyer at eboyer@siu.edu or Mythili Rundblad, coordinator of service-learning and volunteerism, at Rundblad@siu.edu or by calling 618/453-5714.

Boyer said the goal is to collect items associated with the theme each day, but all donations are welcome. When the week ends, she will donate all of the food to local food banks. She hopes to collect at least 200 non-perishable food items.

Boyer received a $216 grant from Sodexo, an international integrated food service and facilities management company, to fund the project. She’s using the grant to purchase healthy snacks for the children, print fliers advertising the event and to buy food drive collection tubs for each participating location.

“Emily is a bright student who enjoys challenges. During meetings with AmeriCorps members, we discuss skills and ideas they wish to develop. When I saw the Sodexo grant, I encouraged Emily to apply. The AmericCorps members see the impact of hunger on some of the children they tutor and mentor. It is awesome Emily’s proposal received grant funding,” Rundblad said.