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Photo by Flickr user Kymberly Janisch

Hunger is one of the clearest indicators of poverty, directly caused in most cases by a lack of purchasing power. Given the rising cost of healthcare and housing, lower income families are facing difficult choices every day of their lives.

It is GO TO 2040's vision that within the next thirty years, not only will food assistance programs meet the needs of Chicago's citizens, but the overall availability of local, healthy foodstuffs will increase as well through regional partnerships.

In coordination with an advisory committee of regional experts, the Greater Chicago Food Depository and Northern Illinois Food Bank have prepared general recommendations for actions to improve hunger within the long-term context of the GO TO 2040 plan.

The recommendations cover:

  • Access to everyone

  • Customer focus

  • No "wrong door"

  • Collaborative delivery system

  • Food supply available

A report that provides more details on these recommendations is forthcoming and will be posted in this space when available; an executive summary is currently available.

Effect of physical planning decisions on hunger

  • The purpose of the questions below is to understand how today's planning policy and investment decisions – covering transportation, land use, housing, economic development, and the natural environment – might affect hunger in our region in 2040.

How would hunger be affected by different economic development policies: focusing on investments in human capital (improving the region's workforce); infrastructure (investing in physical infrastructure such as transportation facilities); or innovation (including but not limited to technological innovation)?

  • Hunger is highly correlated to poverty, and reducing poverty is a long-term solution to the problem of hunger. Whichever of these economic development policies has the most positive impact on reducing poverty would also have the greatest impact on hunger.

  • Technological improvements can dramatically improve the delivery of programs and services that can help prevent and alleviate hunger and the ability of eligible people to access these services, and this is a key recommendation. Beyond this, the comments above concerning poverty apply.

How would hunger be affected by different transportation investment alternatives: focusing on major infrastructure investments (road or rail expansions); low-capital operational improvements (improved bus service, sidewalks, and trails); or technology (including real-time information or improved traffic signal timings)?

  • Reducing transportation costs for low-income people would reduce hunger; the way in which this is done is less important than the outcome.

  • A comprehensive public transportation network is important to ensure that families and individuals can access hunger relief services and retail food outlets that provide quality, nutritious food.

How would hunger be affected by different land use policies: focusing on dense, infill development; moderate densities with emphasis on community-centered design; or low-density new development?

  • Land use changes that are able to bring economic growth to currently impoverished areas have the potential to reduce poverty, thereby reducing hunger. Also, physical concentration and higher densities can make service delivery more effective.

  • Land use policies should encourage and facilitate the use of vacant and unused land in the region for community gardens and other projects that can provide fresh fruits and vegetables to low-income communities.

How would hunger be affected by housing policies: preserving existing affordable housing; creating new affordable housing near transit and jobs; or reducing housing costs through energy efficiency improvements?

  • For low-income people, housing can be a major expense, and making housing more affordable through any of these means would increase their budget for other necessities such as food.

  • Homelessness is highly related to hunger, and programs to address these two issues are related. Any housing policy directed to address homelessness should also consider hunger.

Direct links between hunger and environmental or energy policies were not identified. However, without sustainable environmental and energy policies in place, the quality and availability of the region's food supply may be jeopardized. Access to a sustainable supply of quality, nutritious food must be available to the region in order to achieve progress toward ending hunger.

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