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Hunger no game in this race as pols scamper for food bank hauls

Illinois District 31 State Senator MelindBush Grayslake moves through aisles food Antioch Piggly Wiggly with help Sarah Shadni(left) MundeleNick Meyer

Illinois District 31 State Senator Melinda Bush of Grayslake moves through aisles of food at the Antioch Piggly Wiggly with the help of Sarah Shadnia (left) of Mundelein and Nick Meyer of Round Lake Beach during the Lake County Farm Bureau 15th Annual Race for Hunger. Bush was racing for the Northern Illinois Food Bank. | Thomas Delany Jr.~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 27, 2013 2:27AM

ANTIOCH —It was a messy Race for Hunger at the Piggly Wiggly where the Lake County Farm Bureau’s annual effort to help stock local food pantries on Monday pitted state Sen. Melinda Bush against Lake County Board member Pat Carey.

Bush won going away, but she also won the most “clean up in aisle 7” mentions after she broke a bottle of spaghetti sauce that splashed onto her shoe, broke a bottle of maple syrup and knocked over a display of ketchup.

“That whole display of ketchup ended up on the floor,” said David Karczewski, owner of the Antioch store on Orchard Street and the one on Sheridan Road in Zion. “But it’s OK, it was no problem.”

Bush, the freshman 31st District state senator from Grayslake said her strategy was to pick a lot of things at eye level because she had read that those items on a grocery store shelf usually cost the most. She also went low on the shelves as well. “I was grabbing the family packs,” she said.

Her food roundup for five minutes totaled $1,638.84.

“Who knew I was such a good shopper,” she joked. She received the winner’s trophy while Pat Carey, a former Grayslake mayor, received the loser’s trophy, which is the back end of a horse.

Cary’s total was $952.68. Each had helpers spirit the carts to the check-out line.

“This was just terrific. I’m glad for all of the support,” said Carey, whose food haul will be going to the Avon Township Food Pantry. Cary vowed she would be back again. “I’m going to practice,” she promised.

The Race for Hunger is now in its 15th year and the event also showcases agricultural products, said Greg Koeppen, manager for the Lake County Farm Bureau.

“It was the messiest race by far,” Koeppen joked. “The winners truly are the food pantries.”

Besides Bush’s haul going to the Northern Illinois Food Bank in Park City, that organization also received a check of $500 from the farm bureau. All of the groceries are also paid for by the farm bureau, and they treated everyone to breakfast at the Las Vegas restaurant in downtown Antioch.

“This was a lot of fun,” said Bush. “I’m so glad she challenged me,” she said of Cary. “We’re both fairly competitive.

“This was about raising food and raising awareness,” said Bush. “This is a just a great event the farm bureau does and it makes a difference in people’s lives.”

Wendy Warden, 48, of Round Lake agreed. She is president of the Avon Township Community Foundation that runs the food pantry.

“We serve about 2,600 people a month, that’s about 758 families,” she said. “Our numbers are up slightly this year and we were down this summer, but the need out there is big. The unemployment rate in the Round Lake area is twice what the national numbers are.”

Pete Schaefer, president and chief executive officer for the Northern Illinois Food Bank, said the numbers are skewed because they don’t count people who just quit looking for work. He said demand is up 24 percent countywide.

“These food pantries are working hard to feed their neighbors. We need to get the word out that they need food, volunteers and money,” he said.

Warden said the food bank is a life saver. “I don’t know what we would do without the food bank,” she said.

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