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Struggling Families Pay It Forward

Sandra is battling breast cancer. But she is also battling hunger.

Last week, she skipped a chemotherapy treatment just so she could go to the Chester Area Christian Food Pantry to pick up the food she and her husband so desperately need.

And yet, Sandra doesn’t expect to take without giving back.

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Sandra and her husband have a lush garden, so every time she comes to pick up food from the pantry, she brings in bags full of tomatoes and other vegetables.

She is just one of the many people in this small southern Illinois community who share what little they have with others in need.

Food pantry staff tell countless stories of families in need who bring in homegrown fruits and vegetables or handmade items, hoping to share their own bounties with other families in need.

Yesterday, at a food fair in Chester, Ill., Foodbank staff watched nearly 180 of these families in need wait patiently in line for hours for their share of food.

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Some families lined up as early at 5 a.m., knowing the Foodbank truck wouldn’t arrive with food until after 10 a.m. They waited, in their cars, without complaint for nearly six hours.

This is a testament to how much these families truly need the food.

By 1 p.m., the nearly 20,000 pounds of food we delivered to Chester was gone, divided up amongst the families.

Every family I spoke with expressed gratitude for the food, and said without it, they would not have enough to eat.

They were also quick to tell me that when they get food from the pantry, if there is any extra or anything they can’t use, they share it with their neighbors in need.

Perhaps it is the common ground of hard times that motivates families in need to help one another. Or perhaps, they help each other when they can, simply because they want to pay it forward.

See some moving pictures from the Chester food fair here.

By Bethany Prange

Social Media Specialist

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