CHAMPAIGN — When your family income is so meager you can't put enough food on the table, an ear of fresh-boiled sweet corn for dinner can be a mighty rare treat.
"People see sweet corn and get so excited, you can just imagine. Our underserved population doesn't have access to that," said Julie Melton, spokeswoman for the Eastern Illinois Foodbank.
But sweet corn will be on the way to needy families soon, she says.
Three acres of corn planted at the Provena Bucher family farm plots along West Old Church Road in southwest Champaign are ready for harvesting, and volunteers will begin picking the corn, intended to feed the hungry, on Saturday morning.
Nearly two acres will be picked Saturday and plans are to tentatively pick the rest the morning of July 14, according to the food bank and Provena.
Melton said this year's harvest on the Bucher acres is expected to be yield about 8,000 pounds of sweet corn.
The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District will get some of it for its clients, and the Eastern Illinois Foodbank will get the rest to distribute among 220 soup kitchens, food pantries and shelters in the 14 counties it serves, she said.
Distributions to needy families by those agencies and programs are expected to begin next week, she said.
That corn is badly needed, Melton says. People often remember to donate food to the hungry during the winter holiday season, but summer is actually a harsh time for struggling families because children aren't getting the free lunches they get at school.
"Summer is one of the hardest times of the year for families because school is not in session," she said.
Provena Covenant Medical Center, a Catholic faith-based hospital, formed a partnership with the local food bank to establish its Provena Garden for Every Table program in 2010.
Over the past two years, the Bucher acres designated for the program have yielded about 17,000 ears of sweet corn, according to the food bank and Provena.