New data shows food insecurity rates for Cook County communities


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New data shows food insecurity rates for Cook County communities

Greater Chicago Food Depository releases findings at Third Annual Goodman Hunger Forum

Chicago, IL, September 21, 2011—The Greater Chicago Food Depository released a study today providing first-ever community-by-community details in Cook County of the number of individuals who are food insecure. Data was gathered for all of Chicago’s 77 community areas and 119 Cook County suburbs. The new findings point to strong links between unemployment and food insecurity and to high concentrations in communities on the West and Southwest Sides of Chicago and in several Cook County suburbs. The study is based on Food Insecurity in the United States 2009, compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Among the key findings in the study, released at the Third Annual Lillian and Larry Goodman Hunger Forum:

  • In the City of Chicago, the rate of food insecurity is 20.6%; in suburban Cook County, 15.4%; 845,910 individuals in Cook County are food insecure, uncertain where they will find their next meal;
  • Riverdale (40.8%), Washington Park (34.0%), Englewood and North Lawndale (both at 31.2%) had the highest rates of food insecurity in the City of Chicago, while Ford Heights (55.5%), Robbins (45.0%) and Dixmoor (38.7%) had the highest rate in the suburbs;
  • In Cook County, 36% of those who are food insecure – 304,528 individuals – earn more than 185% of the poverty level ($20,146 for a household of one) and are thus not eligible for most federal nutrition programs.

“We continue to see unacceptably high numbers of people who are food insecure in these difficult economic times,” says Kate Maehr, CEO and executive director of the Greater Chicago Food Depository. “These new findings will help us intensify our food distribution and program outreach to communities most in need.”

The Food Depository will use the data, which will be updated annually, as an important indicator of need and progress in fighting hunger in Cook County. The organization distributed a record 69 million pounds of nonperishable food and fresh produce, dairy products and meat in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011.

A key strategic goal is to increase the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables – on track to reach 20 million pounds this year – throughout its network of pantries, shelters, and soup kitchens. The Food Depository distributes fresh produce to nearly all of Chicago’s 77 community areas, including many locations identified as “food deserts.” Chicago’s food bank is also focused on ensuring and increasing access to federal nutrition programs such as the national school breakfast program, SNAP and the Summer Food Service Program, all of which help families make ends meet. Federal nutrition programs, including The Emergency Food Assistance Program and SNAP, face cuts in the proposed House budget for FY12.

Food insecurity is defined as follows: Low food security – Reports of reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet.  Very low food security – Reports of multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake. Researchers estimate community-level food insecurity by examining the relationship between food insecurity and variables closely related to food insecurity at the state level. These include unemployment, median income, poverty, and specific demographic measures.

The food insecurity data was a key focus throughout the Goodman Hunger Forum, including a discussion among a panel of experts featuring: Adam B. Becker, Executive Director, Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children (CLOCC); Irene Frye, Executive Director, The Retirement Research Foundation; Charles M. Payne, Jr., Professor in the School of Social Service Administration of the University of Chicago; and Karen Batia, Ph.D., Executive Director, Heartland Health Outreach and Vice President Heartland Alliance. The panel was moderated by veteran Chicago journalist Carol Marin.

“The Goodman Hunger Forum allows us to have an important public discussion about hunger and how it affects us, including children and older Americans,” says the Food Depository’s Maehr. “The generous support of the Goodman family has been invaluable in bringing together today those people who are working to solve the issue of hunger and food insecurity in Cook County.”


About the Greater Chicago Food Depository: The Greater Chicago Food Depository, Chicago’s food bank, is a nonprofit food distribution and training center providing food for hungry people while striving to end hunger in our community. The Food Depository distributes donated and purchased food through a network of 650 pantries, soup kitchens and shelters to 678,000 adults and children in Cook County every year. Last year, the Food Depository distributed 69 million pounds of nonperishable food and fresh produce, dairy products and meat, the equivalent of 140,000 meals every day.