Making a Difference: Package Rice with Illini Fighting Hunger

The Wesley Evening Food Pantry serves hundreds of individuals in the Champaign-Urbana community who face food insecurity. Among the most needed items for the Pantry’s monthly distribution is long-grain white rice. To meet needs, especially during the summer months, the Wesley Evening Pantry requires approximately 2,000 lbs of long-grain white rice per month.

Since September, 2012, the Wesley Evening Food Pantry has been provided with sufficient rice through the effort of community supporters. The concept is simple: community groups purchase bulk rice and bags for re-packing and organize volunteers from their organization to repackage the rice into 1-lb and 3-lb packages for distribution at the Wesley Pantry.

Illini Fighting Hunger has facilitated this process since its founding in 2012. We provide the equipment and resources needed to make organizing a project simple for community groups, churches, youth groups, clubs and other organizations.

The Pantry has nearly run out of packaged rice during the month of June. This is an opportunity for your group or club to engage food insecurity in our community in a hands-on way and meet a very real need in our community.

It will take $800.00 to purchase 2,000 lbs of rice and bags, as well as 30 volunteers and approximately two hours to repackage one month’s rice needs for the pantry. However, there is no minimum event size requirement and we welcome projects of any size. We are happy to host you at the Wesley Foundation, or to take our equipment to your facility for a project. Please contact us if you are interested in discussing this possibility further.

National Soybean Research Laboratory’s recipe for Italian Stovetop Casserole debuts at the University of Illinois Community and Campus Day of Service on April 20, 2013

Below is a press release issued by the National Soybean Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

April 12, 2013

URBANA, Illinois     50 million Americans don’t have enough food according to the USDA. Almost 2 million of the food insecure Americans live in Illinois and over 77,000 people who don’t have enough to eat live in East Central Illinois.

On April 20, 2013, the University of Illinois and community volunteers will be joining forces to pack 146,000 meals of Italian Stovetop Casserole, a recipe developed at the National Soybean Research Laboratory (NSRL).

The Italian Stovetop Casserole includes donated ingredients as well as $5,000 worth of Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), donated by Archer Daniels Midland Company, Decatur, Illinois.  TVP is an easy-to-use dry soy food made from defatted soy flour that has been texturized through an extrusion process and formed into granules. Other ingredients in the casserole are macaroni, dried vegetables and spices. By adding water and cooking the casserole, a delicious and nutritious meal packed with protein can be prepared in under thirty minutes.

At the meal-packing event, organized by the student group Illini Fighting Hunger, more than 1,000 volunteers will package 1,000 meals for each year that the university has been chartered. To sign up or learn more, visit

Graduate student Gregory Damhorst, who founded Illini Fighting Hunger is coordinating the event.  It will take place at the Student Dining and Residential Programs Building in Ikenberry Commons on the campus of the University of Illinois. Damhorst said his group has kept costs low by buying food-packing equipment, so it doesn’t have to rent machinery or pay expenses to outside organizations every time it sponsors a meal-packing event. He estimates it costs his group about 13 cents a meal to pack food. Illini Fighting Hunger approached leadership at the National Soybean Research Laboratory to develop the recipe for the April 20 event, and Damhorst hopes to continue using it for future projects.

“There’s plenty of this expertise on campus here at Illinois. Why not come up with our own recipe and have something that’s unique to Illinois that’s actually tailored for folks in Central Illinois?” said Damhorst, who is pursuing a medical degree and a doctorate in bioengineering through the UI’s Medical Scholars program.

“We are elated to be involved in such a worthwhile activity.” said Bridget Owen, NSRL Associate Director. “We work on soy protein solutions related to malnutrition around the world and it is exciting to be involved in a project that benefits people in our own backyard.”

The meals will  be distributed in Champaign-Urbana through the Eastern Illinois Foodbank. The Eastern Illinois Foodbank exists to alleviate hunger in eastern Illinois by providing a reliable source of food for the hungry through cooperation with a network of more than 220 food programs and food pantries and agencies in 14 Eastern Illinois counties.

NSRL engages in research, outreach and education supporting soy nutrition, production and international development. In short, NSRL is very knowledgeable about soy and wants to share its knowledge. NSRL provides nutritional support in areas around the world that face extreme challenges of malnutrition. NSRL leads the way in developing innovative processing techniques involving soy. NSRL educates on the advantages of a soy enriched diet along with promoting the health benefits of eating soy. NSRL works with industry leaders, humanitarian organizations and soy associations and collaborators to increase the use of soy around the world. More information is available at:

Community-Campus Day of Service

cdos200x200Today the Chancellor announced that on Saturday, April 20th, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will kick off National Volunteer Week with our inaugural Community-Campus Day of Service.

The goal of that day of service? Package 146,000 meals – one thousand for every year since the University was chartered – that will be donated to local food banks and distributed to the many needy families right here in Urbana-Champaign.

UPDATE: 81,044 meals were packed on the Day of Service. We’ll continue to hold events to finish off the goal over the next few months.

Illini Fighting Hunger is one of the sponsors of the Day of Service and is facilitating the packaging event! We’ll keep you posted on the latest info and buzz up to the day of the event and beyond. In the meantime, get yourself signed up at

Leadership Opportunities Info Meeting

Join us for a meeting regarding student leadership opportunities with Illini Fighting Hunger!

  • When: Thursday, January 31, 2013 – 6:00 PM
  • Where: Wesley United Methodist Church and Foundation, Conference Room (1203 W Green St, Urbana)
  • Who: Everyone! Especially students interested in leadership experience

For more information contact us at volunteer @

Get Involved with Illini Fighting Hunger

Get involved by signing-up to be a general volunteer or applying for a leadership position! For those who missed the meeting, a video blog recap is available in the playlist below. If you have questions, send us an e-mail or comment on the Facebook page.

The initial application period  for leadership positions has ended but applications will continue to be accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis.

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