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Director's Dish

My siblings and I were raised in rural Illinois, where my parents often knew what we had done, good or bad, before we even got home. I spent most of my childhood waiting for the day that I could move away to the city. For the day that I could live my own life without the interference of others. Very naïve, I know!

The day finally came, my chance to live in the city. My husband landed a job in San Jose, California and for a few years we maintained two households. It was the best of both worlds. I could be anonymous when I wanted, but also be part of a longstanding community when I felt that urge. When it came time to decide whether to stay or move, we ultimately decided to stay in our home just north of Springfield.

Our decision was rooted in the knowledge that our community was behind us and ready and willing to support us through the good and the bad times. There is no doubt that we could have built a sense of community in California as well, but what we had here was a history, one that could take years to recreate.

After nearly 40 years of working in central and southern Illinois, I continue to be amazed at how our communities come together each day. From cheering on our kids in their sports and school activities, to standing outside to talk with neighbors during the height of COVID, to checking on each other after a mid-west storm, to working together to feed those who couldn’t afford a holiday meal, the warmth of our communities shows.

Over the years, I’ve also learned that one must contribute to a community to truly be part of it. Whether that is through volunteering, providing expertise, providing resources, or connecting people, it is the way we build strong communities for the benefit of all. Today, I thank you for being part of our community, for standing together to move us closer to our vision of providing access to and awareness of healthy food for all.