CHICAGO —Blagojevich officials today announced that truckloads of food are being delivered to Illinois food banks and pantries through the Food for Families program. Throughout the month of March, nearly 1.5 millions pounds of food will be delivered to the Illinois Food Bank Association (IFBA) to feed 37,500 families in need. Last December, responding to the needs of thousands of families struggling to put food on the table, Gov. Blagojevich announced the Food for Families program, a $1 million hunger relief initiative. Through this initiative state funds were used to help food banks purchase food and help make up for limited federal support, for the first time in Illinois history. The new program will provide enough food for 3,090 meals per day for Illinois families in need.
“With a slowing economy and the rising costs of groceries, the State of Illinois stepped up to help the IFBA so that pantries statewide can help provide food and assistance to families in need,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “That’s why I proposed additional funding to help food banks across Illinois meet the needs of thousands of struggling families throughout the year.”
With food prices rising and limited federal support for food banks, the Governor proposed $5 million in funding for the Food for Families program for FY09. This additional money will allow food banks in Illinois to buy 7 million pounds of food, and help 175,000 households get the food they need. The additional funding will also include $300,000 in grants to food pantries to help them purchase equipment to stock fresh fruits and vegetables. The General Assembly must act on this proposal in order to help families.
Nearly 500,000 children in Illinois are hungry. Children make up about 35% of those that receive food from food banks. Also, almost 40 percent of households served by Illinois food banks are households with one or more working adults.
“The Governor’s establishment of the Food for Families Program is so important and timely due to the current state of the economy. We also applaud him for committing an additional $5 million so that we can serve even more families,” said IDHS Assistant Secretary Grace Hou. “IDHS is happy to work with the Governor to provide support to the Illinois food banks so that they can increase their food purchasing in order to continue to provide the quality, nutritious food that low-income families need.”
Food banks in Illinois currently receive food donations through local food companies, food drives, and the federal government. But, these sources have been negatively impacted because federal support provided through the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) is not keeping pace with demand. In addition, surplus products provided by the USDA have decreased as have product donations from food manufacturers. This decreased supply comes at a time when the demand for emergency food assistance is increasing in the country and in some Illinois communities.
“We are so grateful for Gov. Blagojevich’s support of Illinois’ food banks,” said Kate Maehr, president of the Illinois Food Bank Association and executive director of the Greater Chicago Food Depository. “Food banks have seen an increase in demand while enduring a diminished supply of food. The Governor’s commitment will stock our shelves with approximately 1.5 million pounds of food and ensures that food will be available for the hundreds of thousands of hungry Illinoisans who turn to us.”
As partners in the program, the IFBA will be able to purchase food for each of the food banks in the state. When purchasing food, preference will be given to Illinois manufacturers and growers. Funding will also be used to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables that are usually cost prohibitive for low-income families. The food will be distributed to each IFBA food bank based on the same allocation percentage used to allocate federal food resources. The food banks will then monitor all member agency food pantries, soup kitchens, and other emergency food programs to ensure nutritious food is delivered to the families who need it most.
If Illinoisans want to donate food or money, volunteer, or are hungry themselves, they can call the Greater Chicago Food Depository at 773-247-FOOD, or visit the website of the Illinois Food Bank Association at www.feedingillinois.org