PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The start of the annual Stuff-A-Bus Food Drive aims to set a record by collecting 13 tons of food this year.

CityLink and Peoria Friendship House kicked off the 36th annual food drive at Kroger, 9219 N. Lindbergh Drive, on Friday.

Young cheerleaders from Coach Bre Cottage Cheerleading & Dance Company put the first donations, a pallet of peanut butter worth $2,500 from Kroger, on the vintage 1970s bus. Performances by the cheerleaders and Peoria High School Band rounded out the festivities.

Cheerleaders help load the bus with peanut butter pallet donation from Kroger

“The food drive is wonderful tradition. It displays the generosity of Peoria. It also shows we care about people who need help putting food on the table,” said Kroger district manager Michelle Donaho.

All food collected benefits the pantry at Peoria Friendship House. The organization’s CEO Marcellus Sommerville said he is optimistic about reaching this year’s goal of 13 tons based on the support Peoria has provided in the past.

$2,500 peanut butter donation from Kroger

“It tells a lot about Peoria. There’s a saying that we’re the city of gratitude, the city that appreciates one another. This is a great example of how we do that through our giving hearts, especially through this holiday season. The support from a collective of Peorians help us get to that goal,” he said.

Last year’s haul of 12.4 tons of food, the current record, kept the pantry stocked for five and a half months. However, Sommerville said that amount of food used to last about six to eight months, highlighting the continued need in the community.

Non-perishable food donations will be accepted at all Kroger locations in Peoria as well as the following places, including WMBD-TV/WYZZ news studio.

  • CityLink Administrative offices (2105 NE Jefferson Ave., Peoria)
  • Dozer Park (730 SW Jefferson Ave., Peoria)
  • Jones Bros. Jewelers (7705 North Grand Prairie Drive, Peoria)
  • Peoria Riverfront Museum (222 SW Washington St., Peoria)
  • West Peoria City Hall (2506 W. Rohmann Ave., West Peoria)
  • WMBD-TV/WYZZ News (3131 N. University St., Peoria)