Illinois Public Media News
A new $5.5 million federal grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture is trying to tackle childhood hunger.
The program will solicit research projects from across the country to study reasons people go hungry, and the effectiveness of food assistance programs.
Craig Gundersen, a consumer economics professor with the University of Illinois, will work with the University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research to identify studies eligible for funding. Gundersen said he hopes this program will unlock some of the mysteries surrounding childhood hunger.
"We don't understand why some children are suffering from hunger and others are not," he said. "There really hasn't been any research on that. We're also trying to find out what causes all of a sudden a child to be in a household not suffering from hunger. Then all of a sudden, he or she is a household where they do suffer from hunger."
According to U.S. Census Data, within a four year period, the number of households in Illinois on food stamps went up by more than a hundred thousand. Around 60-percent of those households had children under the age of 18.
Local efforts to address childhood hunger with groups like the Eastern Illinois Food Bank have been successful, according to Gundersen. In 2009, the USDA devoted more than $60 billion to fight childhood hunger. This new grant seeks to help put an end to it by 2015, a deadline set by the Obama administration. However, Gundersen raised doubt over whether that is a realistic timetable.
The deadline to submit research proposals for the grant program is March 10.
Residents of Illinois' capital city said goodbye to their leader Saturday, tossing flowers at Springfield Mayor Tim Davlin's hearse as it carried his body past city hall, the Statehouse and the state fair's grounds for the last time.
Hundreds of mourners packed Springfield's Blessed Sacrament Church for funeral services, one day after thousands paid their respects during visitation. Davlin's daughter, Tara, gave an emotional speech during the service, The (Springfield) State Journal-Register reported.
Tara Davlin read a thank-you note she'd written her father last October during a trip to Ireland. The note thanked him for walking her down the aisle at her wedding, holding her hand while she delivered her children and for her thick skin.
She said her father had asked her to read the note at his funeral.
"I had no idea it would be so soon," she said.
Friends at the service remembered Davlin for his infectious smile and deep love for his family, city and the Chicago Cubs.
The mayor died Tuesday morning from a close-range gunshot wound to the chest. His body was found by Springfield officers responding to a 911 call. An autopsy indicated the 53-year-old Democrat fired the fatal shot himself.
Residents stood along the street as Davlin's body was driven past the city's landmarks, led by city police and fire vehicles. At city hall, supporters tossed carnations onto the hearse in honor of Davlin's St. Patrick Day parade tradition of handing out the flowers.
The procession ended at Calvary Cemetery, where Davlin was to be buried.
Davlin was to have appeared in court Tuesday to address questions about his handling of the estate of a cousin who died in 2003.
He had been mayor of the city with 120,000 residents since April 2003. He told Springfield radio station WFMB last month that he would not seek a third four-year term next spring because he wanted to leave office before getting burned out. Davlin, who had four children and four grandchildren, insisted then that financial issues had nothing to do with that decision involving the nonpartisan post he called "grueling."
Staab Funeral Home, which handled arrangements, said contributions may be made to the Timothy J. Davlin Grandchildren Scholarship Fund in care of Heartland Credit Union or to Blessed Sacrament Church's building fund.
(Photo by Jenna Dooley/IPR)
Champaign city leaders may have taken the wraps off a new public recreation space southeast of downtown, but it is still covered in a thick layer of snow.
Beneath the snow is a new detention basin, the latest phase of the Boneyard Creek flood control project that's been decades in the making. However, city councilman Michael LaDue says the 11-million dollar Second Street Reach project is much more than just a place to hold excess water.
"On the ground it looks better than it looked on paper, and every effort was made by highly trained professionals to make it look as good on paper as possible," LaDue said during Friday's ribbon-cutting ceremony. "This beats the schematics. This is spectacular."
The pond is surrounded by walking paths, water features and a small amphitheater. Work also surrounded a stone-arch bridge in a corner of the park, one of the original bridges over Boneyard Creek from the mid 19th-century. City planner T. J. Blakeman said some additional work still needs to be done on the site - much of it to be done in the spring. But he said the walking paths are now open to the public.
(Photo by Tom Rogers/WILL)
University of Illinois administrators want its Extension service to develop a campus-level location to better promote its mission and fundraising.
The campus review of Extension has been completed, in a year when some offices have closed and jobs have been cut. But the report does not suggest eliminating any more jobs. In the latest of cost cutting measures entitled 'Stewarding Excellence', Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Richard Wheeler said Extension should consider moving from its current location within the school of ACES to a campus level position.
The letter co-signed by Vice President and Interim Chancellor Robert Easter also suggests that would increase U of I Extension's visibility and opportunities for funding. But Wheeler says a lot has yet to be determined, including making sure that any further re-structuring be done while considering USDA regulations.
"Making sure that we are staying within the permissible ranges of that extensive regulatory system, and the funding mechanism for that matter," Wheeler said. "Most of extension money comes from outside the campus, and will be very crucial. But I don't think any of us can anticipate exactly what organization will emerge at the end."
The 'next steps' for U of I Extension also asks that its Interim Dean Robert Hoeft and Associate Chancellor Bill Adams generate a plan to implement these recommendations, which include combining the functions of Public Engagement and Extension into one office to 'bring coherence to an outreach portfolio that has traditionally been diffuse and poorly aligned.'
They are to develop a preliminary report by early spring. Wheeler says there's no clear-cut model from other states for running the extension service. He said the present model has just worked for Illinois, since the programs involve more than agriculture.
An omnibus spending bill was voted down in the U.S. Senate Thursday, because of Republican opposition to earmarks. Those earmarks included funding for three projects at the University of Illinois. Terry McLennand with the university's Office of Federal Relations said they are preparing to try again to get the funding from the new congress to be sworn in next month.
The largest of the three funding requests was $3.2 million to help pay for a cyber-security project the U of I is working on with the U-S Navy. McLennand said partnering with other agencies like the Navy could help in efforts to win federal funding through the authorization process, rather than through an appropriations process such as earmarks. But he added that it is easier in times when, in his words, "the money is cheap".
"Institutions such as the University of Illinois have tremendous faculty, and tools that can be brought to bear on national defense needs," McLennand said. "But it's a question of, is funding going to be available to do these things. You certainly would think so, but those are going to be the challenges going forward."
Besides the cyber-security project, the U of I also had earmarks in the failed spending bill to provide $617,000 for a new crop breeding program at the College of ACES; and $500,000 in continuing funding for "Cease Fire", a neighborhood crime prevention program based at the university's Chicago campus.
McLennand said the university will be working with both Democratic and Republican members of the Illinois delegation to secure funding for the projects in the new congress. And while he says the use of earmarks may decline under the new Republican leadership in the House, he still thinks Senator Dick Durbin will be able to help the university in the Democrat-led Senate.
"Senator Durbin has been very strong in his support of congressionally directed funding," said McLennand, using a term he prefers to describe earmarks. "That's how a delegation can support their state and their districts."
McLennand said funding from earmarks accounts for only about five to eight million dollars of federal funding for University of Illinois projects --- compared to $650 million secured through federal grants and contracts. As for the three projects that failed to win earmarked funding this week, McLennand said they will continue next year in smaller forms, with funding from other sources.
Wind Turbine Project Gets Smaller As Urbana Residents Learn About Energy Plan
A plan to generate renewable energy by constructing three wind turbines on the University of Illinois' South Farms site has been scaled down to one turbine located on the corner of Old Church Road and Philo Road.
The project is estimated to cost $4.5 million, and the university said it can only afford to support one tower with that budget.
"It's unlikely we'll be able to do more than one at this time," said Morgan Johnston, the University of Illinois' sustainability and transportation coordinator.
Many people think of Latin as a dead language, even though it's the source of modern languages from French and Spanish to Portuguese and even parts of English. Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers reports that Latin is not dead yet - even among grade schoolers -- as he pays a visit to Champaign's Don Moyer Boys & Girls Club.
(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)
What was first intended as a kind of new student orientation web site changed largely in scope when University of Illinois Journalism Professor Eric Meyer surveyed two of his classes about campus crime.
Meyer said new and old students reacted very differently about increased reports of robberies, batteries, and sexual assaults. Discussions resulted in an interactive website. Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert spoke with Meyer, and two of his students, Matthew Shroyer, and Emily Carlson, about the project.
(Photo by Jeff Bossert/WILL)
Doctors say the former first lady of Illinois, Lura Lynn Ryan has terminal lung cancer with only three to six months to live.
The details of Mrs. Ryan's health were revealed in a letter filed in federal court this afternoon. Former Governor George Ryan is appealing parts of his conviction and asking the court to let him out of prison on bail while his appeal is considered so that he can be with his ailing wife.
According to a letter written by the medical director of Rush Riverside Cancer Institute in Kankakee, Mrs. Ryan had a CT scan on Monday which showed a mass in the left lower lung that measured up to 7 centimeters in diameter. A scan on Tuesday confirmed the growth.
Doctors say lesions in the liver and bones suggest an aggressive cancer and given her age and condition. They say Ryan could have as little as three months if their preliminary diagnosis is correct.
Prosecutors have argued against releasing Governor Ryan saying it is the sad fact that all prisoners are separated from their families during trying times.
(Photo courtesy of the Kankakee Public Library)
Voters in the Urbana Park District will be asked to approve an 11-cent property tax increase to help pay for a new outdoor swimming pool complex at Crystal Lake Park.
The Urbana Park Board voted Tuesday to place the question on the April 5 ballot. The increase would be added to a park district tax rate that is already higher than its counterpart in Champaign.
The old Crystal Lake Pool was shut down in 2008 due to electrical and other problems. Urbana Park Board President Michael Walker said having an outdoor pool in Urbana is important to the community, but he conceded that the tax hike request is a difficult one to make in the current economy.
"We understand it's not the best of economic times," Walker said. "The flipside of that is interest rates and construction costs are lower right now than they will be once the economy warms up a bit."
The proposed aquatic center would also be a more ambitious facility than the 1970s-era pool it would replace. Instead of a single pool, the $7.725 million aquatic center would include a multi-lane competition pool, a deep plunge pool with a drop slide, two leisure pools, and areas for picnics and sand play.
Walker says the larger facility is what Urbana needs.
"We've looked at some that were a bit more modest," he said. "The area where we're shooting for on this is about where you have to be to get the kind of usage that will justify the facility."
The Urbana Park District also operates an indoor aquatic center in conjunction with Urbana High School, but Walker said that is not enough to serve the community's needs.
If approved, the 11-cent tax referendum would come on top of a 15-cent property tax increase approved in 2009. That helped pay for park district operations, plus design work on the aquatic center. Walker says the Urbana Park District would also look for grants and private donations to help pay for the facility. Walker says the tax increase would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $37 a year.
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