St. Charles East students combined sustainable gardening with helping hungry neighbors Friday as they took part in Global Youth Service Day at Northern Illinois Food Bank in Geneva.
Organized by St. Charles East's Key Club, 30 students joined with food bank staff in preparing two garden plots and sowing seeds for its new edible forest demonstration gardens. The primary purpose of the garden is to demonstrate how to effectively grow food in small spaces, and produce from the gardens will be distributed to neighbors in need through the food bank's network of community food pantries and feeding programs.
"I've noticed that a lot of food drives bring in donations like mac and cheese or mashed potatoes," St. Charles East junior Alexis Ortiz said. "Thanks to gardens like this, people can get fresh produce."
Ortiz, who serves as the Key Club's president, said the issue of hunger is not something that resonates with many of her peers. Key Club members are exposed to the level of need through regular volunteer shifts at the food bank's warehouse and were happy to get involved when the opportunity arose to participate in the garden project.
"I feel like hunger is not an issue that that people see prominently around the area," Ortiz said. "I've been talking to a lot of people about who this project is actually benefiting. I'm glad we're able to help out and spread the word about hunger because people are struggling and there is a lot of need." In fact, Northern Illinois Food Bank provides food to more than 1 in 7 people across 13 counties in northern Illinois through innovative programs and a network of 800 food pantries and feeding programs. Last year, the food bank provided the equivalent of 50 million meals to those in need.
In addition to assisting with the garden project, the Key Club is also selling Global Youth Service Day T-shirts to help raise awareness and making announcements about hunger facts around the school.
Global Youth Service Day celebrates and mobilizes millions of young people who improve their communities through service. The project at Northern Illinois Food Bank is supported by grants from the Sodexo Foundation and Generation On in conjunction with the ConAgra Foods Foundation.
"Projects like this are a great way to encourage kids to be more involved in their local communities," said Diann Saylors, social studies teacher at St. Charles East and faculty adviser for the Key Club. "Kids sometimes get so disconnected from the community in their day-to-day schooling, and they have to remember there is a world out there beyond the school walls they are working to be a part of."
To learn more about Northern Illinois Food Bank and ways to volunteer, donate and get involved, visit www.SolveHungerToday.org.