The Public Square

Jim Hires on Hunger Awareness Day


My name is Jim Hires, and I'm the Executive Director of the Eastern Illinois Foodbank in Urbana - one of eight regional food banks in the state of Illinois.

Operating out of Urbana, Illinois since 1983, the Eastern Illinois Foodbank currently works with over 180 agencies and programs in its 14-county service area to serve food-insecure individuals and households - people whose ability to adequately feed themselves and/or their families has been compromised by insufficient financial or other resources. It may be hard to understand or even to believe, but hunger is an issue affecting many people in our area, and it's not going away. The Eastern Illinois Foodbank's mission is to alleviate that hunger and to nourish stronger communities. We put the food in food pantries; we put the soup in soup kitchens.

Hunger Awareness Day is observed across the country in June, calling attention to the growing food insecurity for many in America. Although we, along with our national partner, America's Second Harvest, attempt to bring national focus to this issue once a year each June, many of our friends and neighbors in the Foodbank's eastern Illinois service area - those 14 counties I mentioned earlier - are keenly aware of hunger every day.

Emergency food, until fairly recently, has been on the margins of national, regional, and local food system discussions. Hunger isn't an easy subject to talk about whether it's affecting you personally or not, and it's all too easy to believe that it's not a problem here amidst the seemingly endless fields of food. 136,000 people in this area - 62,000 who experience hunger every day and an additional 74,000 who are at risk of falling into the hunger gap - would tell you otherwise.

In observance of Hunger Awareness Day 2007, the Eastern Illinois Foodbank - the largest provider of emergency food in eastern Illinois - is sponsoring a symposium regarding food insecurity in our region. A panel of experts and practitioners will discuss the impact hunger has on the lives of area residents, what's currently being done to alleviate hunger here, and what remains to be done as all stakeholders in the food system - and since we all eat, that'd be every one of us - continue to work together to strengthen all citizens of our community.

Please join us, community leaders, interested citizens, and other stakeholders for Working For Food: Food Insecurity in Eastern Illinois on June 4, 2007 - the eve of Hunger Awareness Day nationally - from 5:30 - 7:30 PM at the Douglass Branch Library at 504 E. Grove St. in Champaign. I'm confident that not only will you be surprised by the "faces of hunger" in our region, but you'll leave with a sense that we, as a community, can help solve this problem.

For more information, please see our website at, or call the Foodbank at 328-3663. We look forward to seeing you on June 4th.