PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — An area businessman has partnered with the Peoria Area Food Bank to make sure no one has an empty pantry during the pandemic.

Food Bank Manager Wayne Cannon said the need for cheap, hearty meals has gone up since the pandemic began.

“It’s a scary feeling to know that your cupboards are bare,” said Cannon

This year, the Peoria Area Food Bank has provided over 1.4 million meals to people across Central Illinois, and as the pandemic rages on, so does the demand for food.

“It’s critical that families not only know where they can get food but that they are receiving it,” said Cannon.

The food bank reached out to local businessman Roy Sorce.

“To bring them to a more efficient and effective way of supporting and donating food to food pantries and families in need in the area,” said Sorce.

Sorce helped reorganize the pantry to better utilize the facility, which Cannon said will help move more product allowing them to reach more families in the region.

“He gave us some great ideas and we said hey, let’s do it, and it’s worked out wonderfully,” said Cannon.

But Sorce brings more to the table than organizational skills. His company Sorce Enterprises also runs a fishing co-op, catching Asian carp or what they call white fish from the Illinois River.

“It is an inexpensive, cost-effective protein that also helps the environment,” said Sorce, adding there’s no shortage of fish in the river, “Our facility can process 15 million pounds a year of Asian carp providing over 20 million meals to families in need.”

Both parties said they are excited to see the positive benefits from this new partnership.

The Peoria Area Food Bank is the first customer Sorce will be providing white fish for. Sorce said the next step is to look for state or federal funding to reach more people and reduce the number of Asian carp in the Illinois River.

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