Eastern Illinois Counties Have Some Of The Highest Food Insecurity Rates In The State
A new report from the nonprofit Feeding America found that food insecurity in east-central Illinois is higher than in most parts of the state.
Map the Meal Gap 2019 uses data from the federal government and food price data from Nielsen to look at the number of people who struggle to access or afford nutritious meals at the county level across the U.S.
Champaign County had an overall food insecurity rate of 15 percent, with Vermillion County and Coles County closely behind at 14 percent, the analysis found. All three counties have higher food insecurity rates than Cook County, home to Chicago. Vermillion County also had the highest rate of childhood food insecurity in the east-central Illinois region at 20 percent.
Eastern Illinois Foodbank President and CEO Jim Hires says that the definition of food insecurity is based on a few criteria, such as someone having to choose between groceries and other bills or skipping meals to feed their children.
“It boils down to you have to struggle to make sure that you have a consistent source of nutritious food for your family,” Hires said.
There are about 138,300 food insecure people in the 18-county area the Eastern Illinois Foodbank serves. And about 35 percent of those residents who are food insecure don’t qualify for federal nutrition assistance under the current program requirements, but are able to get help through the Foodbank’s pantries.
“It doesn’t take much for a family to slip into food insecurity. A job loss, an illness…. a plant closes, so we just have to understand it,” Hires said.