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Community Gardens mobile pantry serves more than 17,000 people in DeKalb County

Volunteers help set up the DeKalb County Community Gardens mobile pantry earlier this year in Kingston.
Volunteers help set up the DeKalb County Community Gardens mobile pantry earlier this year in Kingston.

DeKALB – As the year draws to a close, the DeKalb County Community Gardens mobile food pantry announced it has served more than 17,000 people in the county over a year and a half of operation.

Dan Kenney, founder and executive director for DeKalb County Community Gardens, said that includes more than 9,000 households served in the county. He said the numbers are in addition to the more than 175,000 pounds of food that has been raised and distributed by the community gardens since he started the organization in 2012.

“I think it shows the need that there is with the amount of food insecurity that exists within our county,” Kenney said.

Kenney said he retired as a teacher within DeKalb School District 428 three years ago and he can empathize with people who would have to work two full-time jobs and still need help feeding their children. He said he initially started the community gardens because nearly 20 percent of the children in the county are considered food insecure.

Kenney said the mobile food pantry also makes a point to operate on Saturdays, since most pantries in the county don’t operate past Thursday. He said the pantry also travels to communities that don’t have food pantries, including Waterman and Malta.

“I feel it’s very important that everyone is entitled to good-quality food choices,” Kenney said.

About 16 percent of DeKalb County’s 104,000 residents live below the poverty line, according to a news release from the group. Kenney said 30 percent of people that the mobile pantry serves are 60 years old or older.

Kenney said the goal of the organization is to help close the food gap in the county. He said that, according to an annual survey conducted by Feeding America, the mobile pantry has helped decrease food insecurity in the county by 7 percent and increase food distributed within the county by 3 percent.

“I think that’s a positive thing,” Kenney said.

Kenney said the group received a $20,000 grant through the Illinois Charitable Trust Fund at the end of 2017 that was used to hire a driver for the truck. He said the money from the grant could only be used for 2018 operations.

“Going forward, we’re going to have to rely on donations and sponsorships [to continue operating],” Kenney said.

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