BLOOMINGTON, Ill.— Illinois 4-H member Libby Larkin of Livingston County knows that hard work and dedication can make a lasting positive impact in local communities. The senior in high school is ready to take her advocacy work to the next level as she sets a goal to package 100,000 meals for local food banks on Mar. 4 at the Interstate Center in Bloomington and she’s asking for the help from across Illinois to make it happen.
"I always know where my next meal is coming from, but, unfortunately, not all kids do,” says Libby. “I have learned that hunger is closer to home than many people realize. Until I volunteered at a 4-H food packaging event in 2017, I did not know how many children face hunger and food insecurity right here in our own communities."
Libby is looking for assembly line volunteers for the day of the event with two shifts available between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
“I know it might be difficult for volunteers to come far distances so I tried to host the event in a central location with easy access to multiple interstates,” says Libby. “For those that cannot attend in person there is still an opportunity to help me fight food insecurity. A $10.00 donation helps feed 72 people. With the combined efforts of my family, many volunteers, food packaging companies, and donors, we can make a difference for those experiencing food insecurity.”
Fighting food insecurity is an ongoing advocacy focus for Libby. Over the last five years, she has hosted six meal packaging events, raised $28,000 in funding, and, with the help of 435 volunteers, packaged over 120,000 meals to help fight hunger in her community to date.
A past Illinois 4-H Food Advocate of the Month, she’s excited for the positive impact the March event can bring and is looking forward to working with volunteers from across the state.
“I want to give others the opportunity to learn about food packaging projects and show people how they can host events in their own communities,” says Libby. “I also want others to understand how important giving back is and that we should all give our time and effort to help those that need it the most. I am very blessed to have the opportunity to influence and change the lives of not only those receiving the meals, but also the volunteers and organizations that help with the events. I know that I cannot change the world by myself, but I can lead by example.”
Food Advocacy is a specialty focus of the Illinois 4-H program, with dedicated programs, project, and staff to guide youth with a passion for fighting food insecurity.
“We believe that our future is brighter when young people have the confidence and support they need to raise their voices and advocate for food systems that are accessible and meet the diverse needs of Illinois families,” says Mark Becker, University of Illinois Extension 4-H youth development specialist. “We know that those who are closest to the problem are also closest to the solution, and young people's voices and lived experiences need to be at the center of the solutions.”
Those interested in providing hands-on volunteering the day of the event may sign up using the event sign-up form. Those interested in donating to the event may call the Livingston County 4-H Office at 815-842-1776 to learn more.
About Illinois 4-H: 4-H grows true leaders, youth who are empowered for life today and prepared for a career tomorrow. The hands-on approach in 4-H gives young people guidance, tools and encouragement, and then puts them in the driver’s seat to make great things happen. Independent research confirms the unparalleled impact of the 4-H experience, demonstrating that young people are four times more likely to contribute to their communities; two times more likely to make healthier choices; two times more likely to be civically active; and two times more likely to participate in STEM programs.
About Extension: Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities.
For Further Information Contact:
Source: Celeste Walsh, Extension Marketing and Publicity Coordinator, Serving McLean, Livingston, and Woodford Counties, firstname.lastname@example.org
News Writer: Carissa Nelson, Illinois 4-H Media Communications Manager, email@example.com