Growing Hope Against Hungerby Kimberlie Kranich (Community Engagement Director, Illinois Public Media)
on Oct 04, 2011
I met a man in his 20s at the Wesley Evening Food Pantry in Urbana this fall. He wouldn’t talk to me on camera, but he told me how he and his girlfriend had lived in their car for two weeks after he lost his construction job. He had sold plasma to supplement their income. She was nutritionally deficient and unable to donate. His eyes were wide and clear blue as he explained they only come to the pantry when they need food. Illinois Public Media staff members have met dozens of working or part-time working people like this man who need emergency food assistance.
In July, we heard testimony from migrant farm workers in Rantoul who came from Texas with their families to work in the corn fields of Illinois. Some arrive with little or no money. Outreach staff from the Illinois Migrant Council (IMC) help them enroll in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps. But IMC funding is insufficient for an increased demand for services. IMC staff members are scrambling to cover a larger geographic area to meet the needs of those who don’t know from where their next meal will come.
In Peoria, we heard from a woman whose church provided nutritious meals to 50 school children after cut backs resulted in abandonment of summer feeding programs at schools with the poorest children. “We wish we could give them more variety,” Marjorie Hayden, of the United Methodist Church in Peoria, told us. “Corn and green beans and mashed potatoes are wonderful but we need to introduce them to other foods and provide a balance meal and introduce them to some things they may not get introduced to at home.”
Since 2009, as Illinois Public Media has been listening regularly to the voices of our region, hunger kept rising up as a community problem and these are some of the stories that were told to us. And we aren’t the only ones listening. In 2010, the Illinois Commission to End Hunger was formed and commissioners have been holding listening sessions throughout the state to develop an action plan every two years. Businesses such as Wal-Mart are huge donators of produce and meat to Illinois’ food banks. And local businesses, such as the Common Ground Food Coop in Urbana, have partnered with Illinois Public Media to provide meals to the Eastern Illinois Foodbank for every donation to WILL.
During the month of Thanksgiving, Illinois Public Media will highlight the public-private efforts to meet hunger needs in Illinois with a special night of TV programming on Tuesday, Nov. 15 called “Growing Hope Against Hunger.”
The first hour (7 pm) features a national program from Sesame Workshop that looks at families and hunger. The second hour (8 pm) will be a live, locally produced program whose focus is to:
• raise awareness of hunger in Illinois
• look at the public-private-government response to the need
• connect viewers/listeners/web users to resources in their community
An hour-long, live, online chat (9 pm) will follow the television programs. All are invited to participate in the chat by going to will.illinois.edu/connect. The 8 pm television program may be viewed on our main website here: will.illinois.edu.
If you know of anyone who needs food assistance or if you have resources to give to those who are involved in these long-term efforts to end hunger in Illinois, we hope you’ll tune in on Nov. 15.