Illinoisans Skip Meals to Feed the Children
CHICAGO - More than 13 percent of Illinois families are "food insecure," according to a new U.S. Department of Agriculture report. That means they struggle to put food on the table - and in some cases at least one adult in the family skips meals so the others can eat.
Jim Conwell, communications manager for the Greater Chicago Food Depository, says he's not surprised because food pantries around Chicago have been swamped.
"In the last fiscal year there were 5.5 million food-pantry visits in Cook County."
The report finds more women than men to be food insecure, many of them mothers or seniors living alone. Nationwide, the USDA report estimates, nearly 18 million American households, or 50 million people, don't have enough money for everyone in their household to eat nutritious food every day.
Social workers say the numbers are probably a lot higher than that, especially among seniors who often don't want to apply for food stamps even when they need them. Conwell says no one should be embarrassed to get food stamps or visit a food pantry.
"We work to remove barriers between people and food - one of those barriers being stigma. We certainly encourage people to get the assistance that they need for nutrition."
Congress is considering cuts to food programs to help balance the budget. But a new poll by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) shows voters don't think that's a good idea. The poll says 75 percent of Americans think reducing funding for food assistance is the wrong way to cut government spending. Jim Weill, the center's president, explains.
"When asked what they think of Congress cutting billions of dollars from the food-stamp program, 70 percent of people said that's the wrong way; and only 10 percent of the people said they strongly favored cutting the program."
Weill says half of all American children at some time in their lives are food-stamp recipients. The USDA report says food insecurity rates for households at or below the federal poverty level, as well as households headed by a single man or woman and by blacks and Hispanics were substantially higher than the national average.
FRAC poll details are online at frac.org. State-by-state food-insecurity numbers from the USDA are at ers.usda.gov.