Lawmakers throw $2,800 in groceries into carts in race to benefit Fox Valley food pantries

State Sen. Don DeWitte and state Rep. Suzanne Ness hit the Batavia Jewel-Osco Monday morning for a friendly grocery store race benefiting two area food pantries and hundreds of families in Kane County.

Ness, a state representative for the 66th District, hit the canned fruit aisle first, tossing packages of apple sauce into her grocery cart for a food pantry that serves families and employees of Community Unit District 300.

In the next aisle, DeWitte, a state senator for the 33rd District, was grabbing bags of rice and hominy for the Salvation Army food pantry in St. Charles.

"You're going to do spaghetti and sauce next," said Lt. Dena Smith, of the Tri-Cities Salvation Army.

In seven minutes, the two lawmakers loaded cart after cart in the Kane County Farm Bureau's 21st annual Food Check-Out Challenge Shopping Spree. The farm bureau, which partners with the Northern Illinois Food Bank for the shopping spree, has used the event to donate more than $40,000 in food to area pantries in the last 21 years. The annual event features local lawmakers running up and down aisles as they shop for local pantries.

"It was more exercise than I remembered, but it was worth every minute," said DeWitte, who is the first area lawmaker to participate in the challenge twice.

Though DeWitte and Ness were the only ones allowed to grab items off shelves and toss them in their cart, both had advisers from their chosen food pantries directing as they shopped.

"Grab two of each ... as fast as you can," someone shouted as the shopping game was nearing an end.

"All the snacks, ALL the snacks," another shouted in the final moments as Ness was packing her last cart with Goldfish crackers, cookies and other snacks.

In the end, Ness edged out DeWitte with a total bill of $1,455.29 in food for the D300 Food Pantry. DeWitte's haul totaled $1,351.42 for the Salvation Army.

The annual event comes at a time when the generous donations over the holidays are dwindling, and shelves need to be restocked. The Kane County Farm Bureau covers the grocery bills for the shopping spree.

"January through April are a little slow for donations," said Leslie LaMarca, executive director for the D300 Food Pantry.

As she guided Ness through the aisles, LaMarca focused on things the food pantry doesn't usually get or items in high demand like individually packaged apple sauce cups, peanut butter, granola bars or other snacks.

"The honey is going to fly off our shelves," she said, adding honey is not an item typically donated.

In addition to helping area pantries, the event helps draw awareness to the issue of food insecurity.

"Food is one of the essentials that people need," said Ness, adding she was reminded of the fragility of some people's lives. "I'm really glad that we can serve a pantry that really supports families in a meaningful way."

In addition to the shopping spree, the Kane County Farm Bureau encourages farmers to donate a portion of their crop to local food pantries, Manager Steve Arnold said. Through the years, farm bureau members have given more than $200,000, or roughly 2 million meals by food bank standards, to area food pantries, Arnold said.

Information about the Salvation Army food pantry can be found at

For details about the D300 Food Pantry, visit

  State Rep. Suzanne Ness maneuvers through the aisles of the Batavia Jewel-Osco store during the Kane County Farm Bureau's 21st Annual Shopping Spree to benefit local food pantries on Monday. Paul Valade/
  Kane County Farm Bureau Manager Steve Arnold organizes the food checkout during the 21st Annual Shopping Spree event Monday in Batavia. Paul Valade/
  State Rep. Suzanne Ness, left, and state Sen. Don DeWitte start their shopping spree to benefit local food pantries Monday during the Kane County Farm Bureau's 21st Annual Shopping Spree event at the Batavia Jewel-Osco. Paul Valade/
  More than $2,800 worth of food was collected during Monday's Kane County Farm Bureau 21st Annual Shopping Spree event at the Batavia Jewel-Osco. Paul Valade/
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