The Hunger Collaborative, convened by Galesburg Community Foundation in 2021, is made up of leaders from more than 30 nonprofit organizations both directly and indirectly involved in food assistance. They are working to develop strategies to reduce hunger and have identified four priority root causes in Knox and Warren Counties: access to and awareness of services, workforce and skills readiness, housing and homelessness, and transportation.
“People aren’t just hungry—there are other things going on that result in food insecurity,” says Stacy Brown, Vice President of Behavioral Health Services at Bridgeway. “If we want to reduce hunger, we need to find more holistic solutions.”
Brown is leading the subgroup of the Hunger Collaborative that is seeking to increase awareness of services in the two counties. To date, two grants have been made.
The first grant was made to fund an Adult Systems of Care position at Bridgeway. Jamie Stark has been in the position for a little less than a year, working with nonprofit and governmental service providers to support individuals in Knox and Warren Counties with accessible services so they can thrive.
“I meet people where they are in their life at that moment and work with them to get past barriers,” says Stark. An example is a mom and two young children coming from a domestic violence situation. Stark helped the mother fill out an application for Knox County Housing Authority and get a link card, and she connected her with a childcare provider so that she could get a job. “She did most of the legwork herself. I was just there to support her and provide resources.”
In addition to receiving referrals, Stark is at the Galesburg Public Library on Wednesdays from 1:30-4 pm and Fridays from 9 am-noon. She plans to have regular hours at a location in Warren County soon. Individuals and organizations can connect with Stark at email@example.com or call 309.368.2305.
The second grant was made to develop a multilingual service and resource online database. The database allows those in need of services and organizations access to current information on resources available in Hancock, Henderson, Knox, McDonough, and Warren counties. Check out the database.
“When you’re in survival mode, it’s sometimes hard to know where to turn for help,” says Jamie Roth, Community Services and Public Relations Director of the Western Illinois Regional Council (WIRC), the lead grantee for the initiative. The top of the web page asks one question, “Hey, how can we help?” Based on what’s asked, the response can be anything from where to find food pantries to how to find resources to get rid of bed bugs to where to get help with heating bills.
It’s a resource that’s available anytime, day or night, that was built based on the questions most often answered by staff at WIRC. “It’s a living resource that we will improve and build as time goes on,” continued Roth. “It not only helps individuals in need, but helps local organizations spread the word about the services they offer.” The website is available in English and Spanish and will be translated into French in 2024.
Hunger Collaborative initiatives are being funded through more than $1.4 million entrusted to Galesburg Community Foundation by the Knox County Board, along with $750,000 invested by the Community Foundation itself and more than $100,000 generously contributed by local residents. Learn more about the Hunger Collaborative.