United StatesIllinois

Food banks in Illinois serve record number of meals

Work underway at Northern Illinois Food Bank.

(The Center Square) – Requests for food assistance during the ongoing pandemic continue to put pressure on Illinois food banks.

Elizabeth Gartman is a communications manager for the Northern Illinois Food Bank, which serves a 13-county area including most of the Chicago suburbs. In June, the agency distributed more than 300,000 meals each day.

“We actually have had a record month each month for the past several months,” Gartman said. “We just distributed over 9 million meals last month, and that’s a 50% increase over June of last year.”

She said the only recent parallel to the demand experience now occurred around the recession of 2008 and 2009.

“There was a huge increase for us in terms of the need in our community,” Gartman said. “It was very dramatic then and it’s been very dramatic once again over the past few months and it’s still continuing.”

Molly Delaney is vice president of development with the Eastern Illinois Foodbank, which serves 18 counties, including the Champaign and Urbana areas. She said the agency saw a huge increase in demand during the first weeks of the state’s stay-at-home order.

“That peaked in mid-to-late April,” Delaney said. “At that time, our service numbers were nearly double and 51 percent of those were new households. We’ve heard from partners in the area that people really are new to this, not even knowing what to do or how to get access to food.”

Since the initial spike, the Eastern Illinois Foodbank has seen numbers fall, though it is still assisting about 10 percent more families than before the COVID outbreak.

However, officials expect that to change.

“We know that’s what’s happening right now,” Delaney said. “People have access to food and have funds to be able to purchase food for now. We anticipate another surge in the coming weeks when stimulus dollars are gone and the unemployment benefits, related to the CARES Act, expire at the end of July.”

Both organizations report the community response in their areas has been tremendous, with both donations and volunteer numbers rising to support the effort.

“We’ve been astounded by the generosity of our community, from just individuals to corporations and foundations and other organizations,” Gartman said. “As we’re seeing record amount of need, to have also a record amount of support is obviously just all the we could possibly ask for and then some.”

Delaney said each community in the agency’s area is experiencing different hunger needs her organization still is preparing to help.

“We know that this isn’t going to end tomorrow,” Delaney said. “And even though things have calmed down now, everything that we look at in terms of projections tells us that this is going to get worse before it gets better.”

Show More

Related Articles

Back to top button