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The Face Of Hunger in Illinois

Updated: Tuesday, August 19 2014, 09:41 AM CDT

The face of hunger in eastern Illinois is revealed in a new study. The Eastern Illinois Food Bank, in collaboration with Feeding America reports one in five individuals rely on food pantries to feed themselves and their families.

Nearly 13,000 eastern Illinois residents are served by local food pantries every week according to “Hunger In America 2014”. The study records various demographics, circumstances and challenges of those in need.

Julie Melton of the Eastern Illinois Food Bank says "it's a very significant study. We do it every four years in coordination with Feeding America and it really helps us determine where we're going to move forward in the coming years".

The study found 17.4% of households include a military veteran, 82% purchase inexpensive and unhealthy food because they can't afford healthier options and 80% of households choose between paying for food and medical care.

Nathan Montgomery of Salt & Light Ministry says "we've seen a lot of people who had jobs and may have never been to a pantry before but because of the downturn in the economy and the loss of jobs that pay enough, that pay a living wage, they had to come through our doors".

Salt & Light Ministry serves anywhere from 12-1400 people a week. They're the largest emergency food program in Champaign county. Montgomery says the goal has to be broader than simply providing food and clothing.

"That's why for us, we've really been looking at how do we create a model that engages the person so they're not treated like a number and we can actually engage their specific situation in a way that's gonna provide them with the opportunities that they need to change their situations," Melton said.

The study also revealed 79% of people in eastern Illinois who rely on food pantries have high school diplomas. The national average is only 40%.

Melton says “so we are a very well educated community it just goes to prove that there's just many individuals having a hard time making their ends meet”.

The eastern Illinois Food Bank works to alleviate hunger in eastern Illinois through collaboration with food pantries, various agencies and programs.

They serve 14 counties with a total of 220 agencies and programs.

The Face Of Hunger in Illinois

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