(20 ILCS 5015/5)
It is the goal of the State of Illinois that no man, woman, or child should ever be faced with hunger.
Despite being one of the wealthiest nations and the largest agricultural producer in the world, the United States is a country with pervasive hunger and Illinois is not exempt from this reality. In Illinois, hunger is less a story of starvation and more one of hunger and access, of individuals and families simply not having access to enough healthful, nutritious food. The number of families facing food emergencies is growing. Requests for emergency food assistance grew by an estimated 30 percent nationally in 2009 alone.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which defines food security as "access by all people at all times to enough nutritious food for an active, healthy life," also estimates that between 2006 and 2008, 11.1 percent of Illinois households experienced food insecurity. Nearly 1/3 of those households were considered very food insecure. It is important to note that the USDA numbers only reflect what was taking place between 2006 and 2008. Since then, the economy has significantly weakened, and there are likely many more people struggling with hunger than what the USDA report states.
When examining hunger in the region, participation levels in existing nutrition programs are an indicator of the level of need in the community. However, many nutrition programs are underutilized by the families and individuals that need them, so while examining program participation data, it is important to keep in mind that this likely underrepresents the true need in the community. It is estimated that only 79 percent of Illinoisans eligible for SNAP benefits were enrolled as of 2006.
The School Breakfast Program (School Breakfast) and the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), two child-focused programs, are also underutilized. Illinois currently ranks 51st amongst all states and the District of Columbia in enrollment for free and reduced priced school breakfasts. Illinois earned this bottom ranking because less than 33% of eligible children (those who receive free and reduced lunch) are also accessing School Breakfast. According to a report released by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), increasing School Breakfast participation in Illinois to just 60% would yield an additional $42,655,714 in federal funds and would result in 189,668 more children receiving breakfast everyday. Likewise, increasing the participation rate in the SFSP to just 40% would result in Illinois receiving over $9.2 million in additional federal funds and in thousands of children continuing to have access to breakfast or lunch, or both, during the summer months.
Opportunities exist in several areas to eliminate barriers preventing individuals from accessing quality, nutritious food and achieving food security. Promoting health and wellness through nutrition education, coordination of services, and access to nutrition programs is one such opportunity that can help Illinois residents achieve food security. Establishing a statewide Commission to End Hunger will guarantee cross-collaboration among government entities and community partners and is essential to eliminating these barriers and ensuring that no man, woman, or child in Illinois should ever be faced with hunger.
(Source: P.A. 96-1119, eff. 7-20-10.)