Every winter, our thrift store, Community Treasures, provides warm coats for kids. During a staff meeting last December, at the end of a year that turned all our basic assumptions upside down, I couldn’t help but ask: why does the need for coats persist year after year? Why can’t we solve this seemingly simple problem? We didn’t answer those questions that day, but what stuck with me was the idea that even the most basic challenges are fraught with complexities that are hard to appreciate—and that solving them may mean thinking differently than I have before.
Hunger is another one of those issues. In Illinois, one in 10 people are hungry, including one in 8 children. How can such a basic necessity be so hard to guarantee? The root causes of hunger are immense challenges: poverty, inadequate housing, and, especially in rural areas, limited access to healthy, affordable food. In turn, workforce, education, and overall health suffer. The good news is that hunger isn’t impossible to tackle, and in doing so, we also tackle those other barriers associated with it. Last year, the energy around food-related issues was unprecedented. We witnessed that hunger can be addressed with partnerships and collaboration.
Carrying that energy forward, this fall we’re championing a new approach to identify long-term solutions in our region. We are prepared to learn along the way, discover what we don’t know, and double down on what works. But we can’t do it alone—in fact, we’ve convened local nonprofits who are coming together to develop a cohesive and unified approach to address hunger by addressing its root causes. Working together, we will address the issues head-on and holistically. I see in this work full potential and opportunities to rethink our approaches to providing needed funding to serve the people of this region.
What rural regions like ours need are efficient, thoughtful approaches to investing in our communities. Our grantmaking will allow recipients to put more time and resources toward their mission-driven work. With this initiative, we hope to empower local nonprofits to identify the tools and solutions that will work best for our friends, families, and neighbors.
This is just a preview of what’s to come; I hope you’ll be curious to know what we learn and commit alongside us to seeing this vision through.
Joshua D. Gibb / President and CEO