By QCBJ News Staff -September 20, 2022

River Bend Food Bank recently received its share of more than 100,000 pounds of fresh sweet corn that the Illinois-based Nayak Farms has donated to help feed the food insecure in Illinois and Iowa.

The bushels of corn came in even as River Bend and hunger-relief organizations and agencies across America are observing Hunger Action Month by spreading the nationwide campaign’s central message: “Food shouldn’t be an impossible choice.”

Orange is the color of hunger according to Feeding America and each September’s annual Hunger Action Month offers communities the opportunity to raise awareness of the impossible choices children and adults experiencing food insecurity face every day. During the week of Sept. 19-25 – which includes Hunger Action Day on Friday, Sept. 23 –  the Davenport Skybridge is wearing bright orange lights to show community support of the Food Bank and Hunger Action Month. 

This is the 15th year that Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization and its nationwide network of 200 food banks, including River Bend and its 60,000 partner food pantries and meal programs, has issued the annual call to action.  

“Many people may not give a daily meal much thought. For people facing hunger, a daily meal is not as simple,” said Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America. “Instead, it becomes a different type of choice — an impossible decision between food or other crucial needs, such as electricity, childcare, or medicine. Nobody should be forced to make a choice to go hungry. With the public’s support, we can come together to help increase food access for all people, so they no longer have to make such tough decisions.” 

Large donations from businesses including Nayak Farms also help to spotlight the need and solution, River Bend said. And the Gardner, Illinois-based operation’s recent gift of more than 7,000 pounds of corn to the Quad Cities-based River Bend also comes at a time of increased need. 

Over the past four months, River Bend has seen both the amount of donated and government-supplied food continue to decline while demand has increased for food support in pantries throughout its eastern Iowa and western Illinois service region.

“This much-needed fresh produce will be distributed across the food bank’s 23-county service area to thousands of children and adults facing hunger,” Liz Dierolf, the food bank’ director of marketing and communications, said in a news release.

Chris Ford, River Bend’s food sourcing manager, added: “Food donations from manufacturers and grocers, along with subsidies from the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) and government programs have decreased, some dramatically, over the past few months. To maintain the support our hunger-relief partners need, we’ve had to increase the amount of food we’re purchasing by about 20%. Donations like this from Nayak Farms help us provide fresh, healthy food at a time when more people in our community need support.”

Nayak Farms owner, Dr. David Nayak said, “The River Bend Food Bank serves many food-insecure Iowans and Western-Illinoisians who do not know where their next meal may come from. We are honored to donate our sweetcorn to feed those in Iowa and Illinois who are in need. Further, we hope that the model we have created will help incentivize more farmers throughout our wonderful state and beyond to donate a portion of their land to help address food-insecurity. Because at the end of the day, we all have an inherent responsibility to be a good neighbor to those around us in our communities.” 

Through Nayak Farms, Dr. Nayak said he “is deeply committed to tackling food-insecurity in Illinois and the Midwest.” His farm already has donated more than 100,000 pounds of sweetcorn to six of the eight major Illinois Foodbanks and is on pace to donate 200,000 pounds this 2022 harvest season. Dr. Nayak’s goal is to donate more than 1 million pounds of sweet corn and other fresh produce to fight food insecurity in Illinois and throughout the Midwest by 2026.

Toward that end, he and his tenants plan to expand the farm he created in October 2021 to include additional specialty crops like green beans, which he said he will donate to Illinois and other Midwest states such as Iowa, Missouri, and Indiana.

Meanwhile here in the Quad Cities, with the holidays approaching, River Bend Foodbank also is preparing to meet an even greater need, and is inviting Quad Citians to consider giving back during Hunger Action Month to help boost food supplies so no one goes hungry. They also are urged to get involved by: 

  • Volunteering at the food bank – join River Bend one time or make it a regular get-together with co-workers, friends, or family. 
  • Hosting a fund and food drive at your business or social club.
  • Wearing Orange and giving back on Hunger Action Day, Friday, Sept. 23,  for River Bend Food Bank’s Day of Giving. Give $4, $40, or $400 in honor of its 40th anniversary  – every $1 can create five meals. 

Hunger impacts every community in the country. Today, increased gas prices, reductions in SNAP benefits, and an  inflation rate not seen since 1981 (before the Food Bank was founded) means more Quad Citians are finding themselves faced with impossible choices of buying food or paying for other necessities like electricity and medication. 

If you or someone you know is making that impossible choice today, find a food pantry near you or join the fight to end hunger here

Here are some other activities where you can show your support for Hunger Action Day:  

  • Dancing with the QC Stars, Eldridge Community Center; Thursday, Sept. 22, 7:30pm;  River Bend’s Jenny Colvin competes for the mirror ball trophy and donations to the Food Bank.
  • University of Illinois Extension Office Hunger Action Walk, Black Hawk State Park and Galva Veterans Park; both events are Friday, Sept. 23, 11:30 a.m.; Help “Stomp out hunger” with a non-perishable or monetary donation and a walk through the park at one of two locations.
  • University of Illinois Extension Office Hunger Action donation drop off, Mercado on 5th, downtown Moline; Friday, Sept. 23, 4-7 p.m. University staff will collect shelf-stable and monetary donations.
  • Hunger Action Day, Friday, Sept. 23, all day. Wear orange (the color of hunger) to raise awareness and show support for River Bend Food Bank and its hunger-relief partners working to build healthy, thriving communities. The Davenport Skybridge will be lit in orange all week in honor of Hunger Action Day.