CityLink and Friendship House shatter records for 35th Stuff-A-Bus food drive
The 35th Annual Stuff-A-Bus Food Drive brought in almost 12 1/2 tons, or more than 24,000 pounds, of food for Peoria Friendship House of Christian Service.
The drive, operated by CityLink, Friendship House, Kroger and various community partners, broke records this year. According to CityLink Marketing Director Emily Watson, the last record was set in 2008, at 11.8 tons.
“We weren't sure going into this year, what it would look like when we set a goal of 11 tons,” she said. “And, you know, with inflation and all other things going on with the economy, we weren't sure how supportive the community would be, to be able to donate, but they were really just wonderful.”
Watson said the outcome, even during a period when inflation is driving the price of groceries higher, speaks to how much the Peoria community cares.
“We wouldn't be able to continue doing this food drive for 35 years if we didn't have a great community that supports it every year,” she said. “So it's just, Peoria has proven time and time again, that they will continue to support in whatever way they can.”
The operation of the drive itself also depends on the community. At a wrap-up event, Peoria Rivermen and Peoria Mustangs members assisted in emptying and sorting food from a vintage '70s-era CityLink bus, a CityLink van and a privately-owned truck for overflowing donations. Hockey players formed a line to pass boxes and cans along, stacking them around the Friendship House gym at its building on Northeast Madison Avenue.
The drive also is sponsored by Amalgamated Transit Union Local #416 and several media partners. Union members and Peoria Police Department officers also were on hand to assist in filling the gym with food.
“I would suggest coming back tomorrow and seeing the gym and just seeing what it looks like,” said Friendship House Board President Bob Woolsey. “Because from what I've heard, 12.47 tons in this gym is gonna make it really hard to move, which is pretty cool.”
Woolsey said the food goes into Friendship House’s pantry, providing meals for Peoria families in need.
“The level of need is huge because everything costs more. Not just food. But gas,” said Woolsey. “And this time of year, as the weather gets colder, it's tougher for people, you know, to get out.”
The food, he added, also will be distributed through Friendship House’s mobile food pantry, a program acquired through a state grant last year.
The food is collected from direct donations, companies and collection boxes across the city between Oct. 28 and Nov. 30. Watson estimated around 30 collection boxes were distributed this year at libraries, restaurants and grocery stores like Kroger.
“We set up displays at the front of the store where customers who just come in and buy those groceries could put them right in the box,” said Nathan Schupp, store manager at the Kroger on Lake Street. “It worked out very well for us.”
Kroger kicked off this year's food drive with a $5,000 donation. A large donation also came in from Peoria Production Solutions on the last day of the drive. Watson said the donations are always a mix of large-company donations and smaller private ones.
“If you're only able to donate a can, that's great,” she said. “If you're able to donate a box of food, that's great, you know, any little bit helps to be able to fill the pantry at Friendship House.”
In addition to fighting food insecurity, Friendship House provides services like medical assistance, youth and adult education, employment preparation and finance coaching. You can find a full list of their services and more information here.