URBANA — Local lawyer John Thies has challenged his fellow attorneys to help take a significant bite out of hunger in Illinois, and he's given them two weeks to pull it off.
Thies, president of the Illinois State Bar Association, launched Lawyers Feeding Illinois, a competitive food and fundraising campaign among lawyers and legal organizations across the state, this week.
The goal is to help fight hunger by raising 1 million meals for the hungry by March 1.
Money and food collected will support the eight-member food banks of Feeding Illinois, among them the Eastern Illinois Foodbank.
The food drive has been set up as a competition among law firms around the state, Thies said, but it's a friendly competition.
Teams of lawyers earn points by collecting food, and donations are routed to their regional food banks.
Local community members can help contribute by dropping off macaroni and cheese, canned tuna and soups, peanut butter, oatmeal and other non-perishable food items at competing law firms such as the Webber & Thies law office in Urbana, Attorney's Title Guarantee Fund in Champaign, or other competing locations, Thies said.
The Champaign County Courthouse also has a drop-box for food donations.
Legal teams taking part in the competition are listed on the website at http://www.lawyersfeedingil.org.
The easiest way to contribute is by making a money donation on the website, Thies said.
Foodbanks can stretch donated dollars into more food for the hungry than donated food bought at retail prices, he said.
"If you buy a box of cereal, it's $3 or $4," Thies said. "If they (foodbanks) buy it, it's 17 cents."
Thies said the push behind Lawyers Feeding Illinois was his and his wife, Terry, wanting to create a project celebrating philanthropy in the legal profession, with Terry Thies heading the committee of bar association members doing the planning.
Hunger can be hidden in communities, but it affects every county in the state, according to the Lawyers Feeding America website.
About 1.9 million people in Illinois are "food insecure," meaning they don't know where their next meal is coming from, Thies said. More than one in every five kids in the state deals with hunger.
"The need is great," he said.
Thies said he and his wife chose to try to reach the 1 million meal mark because it would be a significant goal to work toward.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Lawyers Feeding America was 385,920 meals toward its goal. The number is being updated on the website.