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Tracking the Rise of "Hidden Hunger" in Northern Illinois


The Northern Illinois Food Bank says it's seeing new trends when it comes to the people it serves. It comes as the organization gathers new statistics for a detailed report. Every four years, the organization releases a hunger study in conjunction with Feeding America. The latest report was issued in 2010. Donna Lake is communications director for the Northern Illinois Food Bank. She says they're starting to compile information for the next report. Lake says one thing they've noticed is a rise in what she calls "hidden hunger."

"There are many people facing hunger today that are our neighbors. They're living on the same block. They're driving similar cars. They're wearing the same clothes" Lake said.

Lake says with unemployment and underemployment still a problem, more of these people are turning to food pantries for the first time. She also says people who are in need are seeking assistance for a longer period of time. Lake says they've been fortunate that donations have remained steady. But she says they still have a long way to go to meet the demand out there. She cited findings from another recent study by Feeding America

"To meet the need in northern Illinois, Northern Illinois Food Bank needs to double its efforts" Lake said.

Lake says that underscores the importance of donations as they try feed families in need.

Illinois Stats on Hunger

According to Feeding Illinois

  • Over 1.9 million people are considered food insecure, which means they do not have regular access to nutritious food. 
  • 38 percent of food insecure households and 34 percent of children in Illinois exceed federal poverty guidelines that would qualify them for food assistance. Those individuals must rely on charities to feed themselves and their families. 
  • 42 percent of those who are food insecure qualify for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) 1,645,722 Illinois residents participated in the program in 2010. This is an 11% increase from the previous year. 
  • In 2009, enrollment in free and reduced price school meals continued to climb. More than 770,000 Illinois children received lunch and 293,000 received breakfast.