Skip to Main Content

From Vision to Reality: The Beardstown Food Pantry

There are many communities coming together to put food on the tables of our neighbors. Some are doing this through faith-based organizations, others through schools or health centers, or through other community organizations.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Joe and Sarah Engelbrecht saw how great the need was for food support in their community. After helping establish an on-campus food pantry for students at the local high school and volunteering at drive-through distributions, they realized they wanted to do more. Two years later, the Beardstown Food Pantry was founded.

The pantry which opened in January, is set up like a grocery store allowing neighbors to choose food based on their food preferences and dietary restrictions. This strategy typically provides higher satisfaction for those visiting the pantry, and less waste. Providing non-traditional hours of distribution, currently each Sunday from 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m., creates greater access to community members, particularly those who work during the week.

Joe and Sarah brought their dream to reality by engaging with businesses and community organizations such as Cargill, Dot Foods, JBS, Beardstown CUSD #15, Cass County Public Health Department, University of Illinois Extension office, and the Elks Lodge. The Foodbank provided technical assistance and food safety related resources, while others helped by spreading the word, sharing best practices, volunteering, donating labor or funds.

Joe Engelbrecht shared that “Cargill was an early partner to the table. Cargill Cares was the first supporter giving us $5,000 for the Tiger pantry housed at the school and then $10,000 for startup costs at the food pantry and later an additional $10,000 for equipment.”

DOT Foods, has also been involved since the beginning. Suzy Parn, director of Dot’s Corporate Charitable Program, shared “Dot Foods donated food items for distribution in Beardstown in the past, so when we learned that these citizens were working to create a pantry, we were eager to be a part of their effort. The grant for the pantry’s construction and the food to fill the shelves were two ways we could immediately support them.” Dot Foods has made an ongoing commitment to the pantry noting, “Their efforts are a true example of building their community. We’re honored to help.”

JBS recently presented the Beardstown Food Pantry a gift of $125,000 to help ensure the success of then newly founded program. Others continue to step up with offers of help. These collaborative efforts demonstrate that when an individual organization involves the entire community, we all win; most importantly, our neighbors who have greater access to food.