Promoting Leadership Through Collaboration

CFCI continues to lead the way in addressing food insecurity and other community needs.

by Mark Roberts, Community Foundation of Central Illinois
HEAL Food System Partners received support through CFCI's Ending Hunger Together Fund in 2020 and 2021.
HEAL Food System Partners received support through CFCI's Ending Hunger Together Fund in 2020 and 2021.

True examples of leadership exist all around us, especially here in central Illinois. At the Community Foundation of Central Illinois (CFCI), we’re fortunate to see our community’s leaders in action working together for the greater good each day.

Emerging Leaders
The Emerging Philanthropists Fund is a CFCI initiative designed to invigorate emerging community leaders to join together as philanthropists. The group is a cross section of professionals who like to have fun, but who also want to positively impact our quality of life. By working together, members build the Emerging Philanthropists Fund, an endowment that addresses community needs through grantmaking. 

The Fund offers a unique opportunity by providing members with a vehicle for strategic giving, information about the grantmaking process, and the ability to learn more about our region’s many nonprofit organizations. Its giving circle model allows members to be philanthropic without having to be wealthy; by pooling its membership contributions and additional donations, the Fund continues to grow. Each year a portion is granted back into the community as members vote on which nonprofit organizations receive grants.

Illinois Ability Sports is the 2021 Emerging Philanthropists Fund grant recipient, awarded $5,000 for the creation of the Mason County Community Splash Pad. The splash pad will provide low-income children and individuals with disabilities a safe and fun opportunity to enjoy an outdoor activity free of charge. Nothing of this nature currently exists in Mason County to serve these children.

To date, the Emerging Philanthropists Fund has granted over $45,000 back into the community. Previous grant recipients include Phoenix Community Development Services, Dream Center Peoria, Easterseals, Peoria Art Guild, the gitm Foundation, Girls on the Run of Central Illinois, T.H.I.N.K. Mentor Academy, Friends of Proctor Center and Camp Big Sky.

Through the grantmaking process, members of the Emerging Philanthropists Fund have the opportunity to gain basic philanthropic skills, form connections with established donors, and make a large impact on the causes that matter most right here at home.

The Emerging Philanthropists Fund has granted over $45,000 to organizations like Camp Big Sky.
The Emerging Philanthropists Fund has granted over $45,000 to organizations like Camp Big Sky.

Addressing Food Insecurity
One of the primary issues CFCI continues to address is food insecurity—the state of being without reliable access to enough affordable, nutritious food. Despite years of hard work by numerous community partners, food insecurity remains an ongoing public crisis. Studies show that 43,000 residents, including 14,000 children, are impacted throughout the Tri-County region. In 2018, CFCI created the Ending Hunger Together program to focus on four key areas:

  • Closing the food insecurity gap
  • Encouraging meaningful collaboration between existing organizations
  • Increasing the amount of quality food in the emergency food system
  • Creating a model that addresses current needs and identifies underlying issues.

Since then, CFCI has worked with over 20 area partners to increase food access, advance education, and create urban agricultural opportunities. While we take great pride in the collective accomplishments to date, there is still much work to be done. CFCI awarded the first Ending Hunger Together grant to Healthy Eating/Active Living (HEAL) Food System Partners, spearheaded by the Tazewell County Health Department. Among other activities, the HEAL collaboration has created four new food pantry programs, developed a system of healthy recipe cards, and expanded partnerships with the region’s Black and Hispanic communities.

HEAL Food System Partners received support through the Ending Hunger Together Fund again in 2020 and 2021 as it continues to improve its reach. During its second year, projects served nearly 45,000 individuals, a dramatic increase from the previous year when over 15,000 people were assisted. The City of Peoria was also funded in 2020 for its Southside Farmers Market (SSFM), which aimed to increase healthy, fresh food access on the Southside while engaging community members and building out a financially sustainable model for a community-run grocery store. While COVID-19 caused a significant disruption to market planning and execution, the SSFM was still able to attract 650 individuals to the market.

Peoria Grown was a recent 2021 recipient for its Market 309 and Wellness & Nutrition Hub. The program has been providing a marketplace where residents can purchase healthy, fresh food at a low cost, as well as a hub for health and wellness outreach and education on healthcare, cooking and nutrition. They have continued to maintain a physical presence in a community that is a food desert and have increased the number of people consuming healthy foods. 

CFCI will continue leading the way in addressing the root cause of hunger and improving the emergency food system by encouraging true collaboration and gaining a broader understanding of challenges and opportunities within the food system as it exists within our community, with a goal of driving systematic, long-term change. PM

To learn more about CFCI, the Emerging Philanthropists Fund or Ending Hunger Together Fund, call (309) 674-8730 or visit communityfoundationci.org

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