Group plans events to ease hunger for children

URBANA — In a community full of restaurants, grocery stores and tailgate cookouts, Ana Vieira knows there are kids going hungry, especially on weekends.

Breakfasts and lunches provided at school help on school days, but when weekends roll around, some kids find little else around their homes to keep them going but a half-can of soda or potato chips, says Vieira, a Champaign mom who founded Friends Against Children's Empty Tummies, or FACET, six years ago.

"It's very sad," she says.

FACET helps feed hungry kids through annual fundraisers, and it has two planned of those events for this week.

Here are the details, and how the community can help just by showing up and buying a baked good, a raffle ticket or making a donation:

— Thursday: Art show and concert at the Indi Go Artist Co-Op, 9 E. University Ave., C, with an opening reception at 6 p.m. and concert beginning at 7 p.m. featuring mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Buckley, plus four acts by Champaign-Urbana musicians.

The art show will include "40 years of Glass Art" by Richard Taylor, owner of Glass FX, and "Functional Pottery" by June Volkening.

Admission is free, with donations taken to help reach FACET's fundraising goal.

This event will also include raffle ticket sales with more than 40 products and services donated by local businesses available.

— Saturday: Bake sale at Market at the Square, Lincoln Square, Urbana, 7 a.m. to noon.

More than 20 bakers are participating, Vieira said.

FACET hopes to raise $5,000 through these events to help support the Eastern Illinois Foodbank's BackPack Program, which sends backpacks of food home with needy elementary school children on Fridays so they and their families have something to eat on the weekends.

Last year, FACET set out to raise $5,000 and raised $7,600, she said.

"This community has been nothing but amazing in support," Vieira said.

The BackPack Program was started in 2005 by the food bank and the Junior League of Champaign-Urbana.

Last year, the program served 715 children in East Central Illinois, and this year the program was expanded to serve 950, Vieira said.

Schools chosen for the BackPack Program have a high percentage of children from low-income families, according to Julie Melton, marketing and development director for the food bank.

The program this year is serving 25 elementary schools in Champaign, Vermilion, Coles, Piatt and Douglas counties, with 14 of those schools in Champaign County, she said. The total number includes eight new schools that were this year.

New schools added to the program must have a low-income population of students that is 80 percent or higher, meaning 80 percent of the students are receiving free or reduced-price lunches, Melton said. School officials identify children for the program based on them showing signs of hunger, she said.

The BackPack Program is an expensive one to run, with the cost of feeding each child in it about $250 a year, Melton said. In addition to fundraisers such as the ones being held by FACET, Melton said, the food bank helps cover the cost by individual contributions and grants.

Still, she said, the need is great and the ability to cover it is limited and the food bank would like to be able to provide it in all 14 counties it serves.

"We can only launch so many schools a year," she said.

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