Matt and Kristin Dutton hold each other's hands tightly as they walk around their farm. They check their corn and soybean fields, hogs and cattle and John Deere equipment. Their part of this world seems in order.
But as the Duttons walk, there are other thoughts to consider. What's it like, they wonder, to not only feed families thousands of miles from their Alexis, Illinois, farming operation but also those just down the road in their local community? How can they make sure their neighbors, friends and children don't go to bed hungry?
The answer? River Bend Food Bank.
For nearly 40 years, River Bend Food Bank has helped millions of families through turbulent times.
This past year has been no exception. The recent COVID-19 pandemic and economic impacts triggered a rising level of hunger throughout America and more specifically in the Midwest. This resulted in River Bend distributing a record 23 million meals and serving more than 160,000 people last year alone.
The food bank not only distributes to food pantries but also organizes school programs to feed food insecure children. It was one of those—River Bend's backpack program at their children's school—that grabbed the Duttons' attention and put real faces to an immense need.
"There are kids (in our school district) that don't have food for the weekend," Kristin Dutton said. "That makes it personal. It's not just people you don't know. It's people our kids sit next to at school. Their friends."
"The only thing it would take to put an end to hunger in our community is for us all to commit to never throwing away food that could still be eaten by someone in need," Mike Miller, River Bend's president and CEO, said.
To help meet the food bank's goals, the John Deere Foundation committed an additional $1.7 million in 2021. This investment is part of the Foundation's previously announced $200 million commitment to communities over the next 10 years. The donation will provide more food, support enhanced capital infrastructure to transport meals, and upgrade the food bank's technology to reach thousands of families and youth.
Each day can be a long one, whether you're growing food or distributing it. As the sun starts to set on the Dutton operation, Matt underscores how grateful he is to have his farm and fortunes. But he's even more thankful for the opportunity to give back to others in need.
"We know our money to River Bend is being used well to help others," Matt Dutton said. "By helping River Bend, you're actually helping feed people."