Survey Finds Soaring Demand for Food Pantries in East Central IL
Explosive growth" is how the Eastern Illinois Food Bank describes a more than doubling of food recipients over the last four years.
The food pantries in 14 counties supplied by the food bank report more than 100 thousand people received food from them last year. That's 133% higher than the number of recipients in 2005, the last time the "Hunger in America" study was compiled.
Jim Hires directs the Eastern Illinois Foodbank. He says his agency saw an identical increase between 2001 and 2005. Hires believes the economic downturn is partially to blame for the continued increase, but he also thinks his agency and member food pantries are doing a better job of finding those in need.
"Our numbers were going up anyway because of our efforts to reach more people," Hires said. "Even at our best effort we were still only reaching about half of the people who are in need. So we were taking steps. Couple that with the recession and all of a sudden it just ballooned almost out of control and really had us scrambling to meet the need."
Hires says a change in federal commodity policy has led to more surplus food going to the Eastern Illinois Food Bank, letting the agency use its money in creative ways to find more food.