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Youth-led initiative creates local action, statewide change

ylt members pose with donations

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. ­– Counties across Illinois were tasked with gathering non-perishable food and care items as part of the annual, statewide 4-H Can Make a Difference Food Drive held in conjunction with the Illinois State Fair Aug. 11-13.

“In Illinois, over a million people face hunger, which translates into 1 in 12 people facing hunger or 1 in 9 children,” says University of Illinois 4-H youth development specialist Katie Duitsman.

This initiative began over 25 years ago and represents the power of Illinois counties pulling together to create a larger change. Counties gathered donations locally and coordinated transport to the Illinois State Fair.

“The food drive was very successful this year. It was an awesome opportunity to be able to bring this state level community service event to all the 4-H members across the state. Members even came over and made structures out of the cans to be interactive,” said Youth Leadership Team member Andrea Schaffnit of Adams County “The canned food drive was also a great way to help spread awareness about food insecurity and how 4-H members can make a difference.”

Over 1300 items were donated over the course of the three days. Counties participated in a friendly competition to see who could donate the most items to the drive. DuPage County placed first, Vermilion County placed second, Cook County placed third, Macoupin County placed fourth, Hamilton County placed fifth, Montgomery County placed sixth, Monroe County placed seventh, Union County placed eighth, Henderson County placed ninth, and Adams County placed tenth.

This initiative is statewide youth led service initiative headed by the Illinois 4-H Youth Leadership Team and the result of the team’s second year of planning the event.

"It is amazing to see 4-H members from all over the state come together to work toward a common goal, providing food for people in Illinois who are in need. I am grateful to be able to help coordinate this event and see what a difference an organization like 4-H can make," says Youth Leadership Team member Ross Vancil of Henderson County "Although this is only our second year doing this program, it is amazing to see how much it has grown because we have been promoting this event online and to clubs and 4-H members are so willing to help and give back" 

This event will return to the State Fair in the summer of 2024.

About Illinois 4-H: Illinois 4-H is the flagship youth development program of University of Illinois Extension and administered through the College of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences. 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. 

For Further Information Contact:

Source: Katie Duitsman, 4-H Youth Development Specialist

Writers: Carissa Nelson, Media Communications Manager,

               Janella Neary, 4-H Youth Leadership Team Reporter

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. Illinois Extension is part of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.