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Holiday Season a Critical Time for IL Food Banks

November 26, 2010

CHICAGO - The holiday season is a crucial time for Illinois food banks, especially with the state's continuing high rates of poverty and unemployment. Tracy Smith, the state director of Feeding Illinois, says unprecedented numbers of people are relying on food pantries to get by.

"It's all across the state. There's hunger in every single community in the state."

Smith says nearly 1.5 million people in Illinois cannot be sure where their next meal will come from. For the past two years she says stimulus money has helped meet demand, but it is no longer available.

"We're concerned because we won't have that stimulus funding so we really need the private response this year, and people have been very, very generous."

Smith says demand has increased 50 percent over the last two years and it continues to rise, even though the federal stimulus dollars have begun to dry up. Feeding Illinois currently provides food to nearly 2,000 pantries and shelters across the state.

Food pantries are looking for nutritional food such as whole grain pastas and breads, canned fruits and vegetables - and for the next few weeks, frozen hams or turkeys are really appreciated, Smith adds.

"Our food pantries and our food banks are working hard this holiday season as they make up special boxes that include all the fixings for a holiday meal."

Smith says Illinois residents can donate to hunger relief by using a check-off box on their state tax return. The entire check-off amount given will directly support emergency food programs across Illinois. More information about how to make a donation or find the nearest food pantry is available at www.feedingillinois.org.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL