Food bank seeks some helping hands to pick corn at Provena farm

CHAMPAIGN – Sure, you could sleep in this Saturday morning.

Or you could spend a few hours helping feed hungry people by picking sweet corn on the south side of Champaign.

The Eastern Illinois Foodbank needs more adult volunteers – both this Saturday and next Saturday – to pick sweet corn growing at Provena Bucher Farms along Old Church Road.

There's 1.8 acres planted in corn and other vegetables, all intended to help feed hungry families in the local area. But only the corn will be ready for picking this month.

Cheryl Precious, director of marketing and development for the local food bank, said up to 20 volunteers will pick corn each Saturday, and 10 more are needed for this Saturday.

The work will begin at 7:30 a.m. and could run several hours, depending on the weather and how many rows of corn are ready, Precious said.

"If it's ridiculously hot, we'll probably end by 11 a.m., she added.

The sweet corn is being picked as part of a new community project called Garden for Every Table, a cooperative venture of the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission, Provena Covenant Medical Center, Illinois Foundation Seed, the Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club and Chris Wise of Champaign, who donated time and equipment for farming the corn.

The hospital donated 1.8 acres of land for the project. Youths from the Boys and Girls Club planted the other vegetables, which include sweet potatoes, pumpkins, okra and red/white/blue potatoes, and will be harvesting those vegetables when they're ready, according to Provena Covenant.

Donating fresh produce may do more than just help feed the hungry. It may also be a step toward reducing childhood obesity by helping change the eating habits of families dependent on local food pantries, according to Doretta Herr, Provena Covenant's community benefit coordinator.

About this Saturday: Volunteers should wear protective clothing along the lines of long pants and long-sleeved shirts and hats. Gardening gloves, sunglasses and sunscreen are recommended. Water will be provided, and parking will be available across the road at Jesse Heating & Air Conditioning, 3702 Old Church Road, Precious said.

It will take 10 to 15 volunteers a couple of hours to pick about eight rows of corn, she said, and there could be between eight and 24 rows of corn ready to pick.

"I imagine it will be great fun," Precious said. "I think people will get into it and bond with each other. We're hoping we're really going to be able to be efficient and come up with a good system to get the corn picked early."

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sameeker wrote on July 16, 2010 at 5:07 pm

Why does Provena own a farm? So much for nonprofit.