The Midwest Food Bank is teaming up with Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee to provide food to the youth who attend programs at the community center she founded in her hometown of East St. Louis.
Standing behind a backdrop of canned and bottled goods at the Midwest Food Bank's Normal location, Joyner-Kersee said Monday that her center currently provides hot meals, but the youths who come there also need food to take home.
"Sometimes we take for granted that everyone is at home eating. In our case, a lot of our kids go home without food, there is no food there. So having this opportunity with Midwest Food Bank will allow us to extend beyond the normalcy of what we do," Joyner-Kersee said.
The retired track and field athlete said she hopes the Midwest Food Bank can eventually open a full-scale facility in East St. Louis.
Food Bank president and chief executive David Kieser said the facility has enough food supplies to serve the people of McLean County and branch out to aid those in need in other parts of the state.
Joyner-Kersee said her center serves about 300 youths in a pre-school and after-school programs. In addition to providing a hot meal, the center offers educational help and mentoring.
"Making sure each of our kids can read at grade level, we feed them, we do door-to-door transportation service and hopefully they can become productive citizens and as they grow and move on that they come back and give back," Joyner-Kersee said.
Kieser said the values the youth center tries to instill reflect those of the Midwest Food Bank.
The Midwest Food Bank is a faith-based not-for-profit organization. It began in 2003 when the Kieser family began distributing food out of a barn on its farm. The Midwest Food Bank now has locations across the Midwest, South, and overseas, serving over 1,400 nonprofit organizations.
Most of the food is donated by food manufacturers, distributors and grocers as well as through private food drives.
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