Hunger Strategy Summary
Table of Contents
Hunger is still pervasive in our region, and some communities have had long lines of people waiting for food outside pantries and soup kitchens for years. But because of an array of private and public programs, hunger in northeastern Illinois is less a story of starvation and more one of hunger and access – of individuals and families simply not having access to enough healthful, nutritious food.
The repercussions of hunger, food insecurity and poor nutrition limit the ability of a household to seize opportunities and move to exit poverty. And the health consequences of eating patterns are apparent as well, with a rising obesity rate among low-income individuals, where kindergarten-aged children are overweight at more than twice the national rate.
A vibrant economy is dependent upon a healthy workforce and a strong educational system, which requires people who are physically capable of learning, working and creating. Thus, increasing access to quality food, including fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy, grains and protein, is essential for the health of individuals and of the community. This strategy paper explores opportunities for creating an enhanced, streamlined system to ensure that everyone in the region has access to quality, nutritious food delivered in a dignified manner.
A sample of findings:
Hunger is still pervasive in the Chicago area. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which defines food security as "access by all people at all times to enough nutritious food for an active, healthy life," estimates that between 2005 and 2007, 9.5 percent of Illinois households experienced food insecurity. Nearly a third of those households were considered very food insecure.
The number of families facing food emergencies is growing; requests for emergency food assistance grew by an estimated 30 percent nationally in 2009 alone.
Food Assistance Programs in Our Region
In addition to other initiatives, a network of more than 960 non-profit food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and child feeding programs supported by local food banks and private donations feed an estimated 687,000 individuals annually in the seven-county region.
Participation in Food Assistance Programs
It is estimated that only 79 percent of Illinoisans eligible for Food Stamps/SNAP were enrolled as of 2006, and Illinois currently ranks last in the nation in school breakfast enrollment (of those eligible).
If you're interested in learning more about hunger, please review the following CMAP strategy report . Comments and criticism are encouraged.