Donations of fresh fruits and vegetables were up more than 93 percent from an average Thursday at Wheaton's People's Resource Center thanks to a food drive organized by two Wheaton sisters.
The more than 30 donations of fresh produce brought to the center between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. as part of the Apples and Carrots Fragile Food Drive signaled a significant uptick from the two donations the center normally would expect.
"That is an immense success for our first food drive effort of the season," said 16-year-old Emma Koropp, who founded the not-for-profit Apples and Carrots in 2010 with her sister Hannah, 17. "It's really cool to know so many people in town are hearing our message and helping us out."
A fragile food drive collects perishable items with short shelf lives, including fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy products.
Since 2010 the sisters have collected more than 15,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables that have been distributed to the People's Resource Center, Naperville's Loaves and Fishes Community Pantry, Wheaton's Gary United Methodist Church and the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
Thursday's drive filled a regular void at the center, which assists as many as 32,000 DuPage County residents a year.
"We think about people struggling to put healthy meals on the table and the fresh aspect is the toughest one to meet," said the center's senior programming director, Melissa Travis. "Typically we can fill up bags for them with cans and boxes. But to get a fresh peach or a fresh tomato is always a real treat for families because it's so rare that we get them and they disappear fast."
Hannah and Emma began their careers of giving several years ago when participating in the Christmas Sharing program at Gary United Methodist Church.
"We collected 300 pounds of food and saw the impact that had on so many families," Hannah said. "We knew with the support of our classmates, family and community we could do something like that on a regular basis. So far we've been successful and it feels great."
Julia Nowicki, the girls' guidance counselor at Wheaton Warrenville South High School, says the sisters make it easy for their classmates to get behind them.
"Both Hannah and Emma are just wonderful girls and the Apples and Carrots pantry program is outstanding. I've been (at Wheaton Warrenville South) for 10 years and I've never seen two students do as much for the community as these girls," Nowicki said. "They have a giving spirit unlike any found in most young people today and it's refreshing. It's safe to say their efforts are noticed and appreciated by many."
The People's Resource Center certainly has taken notice. Based on Thursday's success, Travis said she'd like to talk to the girls about running more programs.
"That would be awesome," Emma said. "Tell us what you need and where you need it and we'll organize it the best we can."