The recent U.S. census quantified the trends we have been seeing locally in dropping family incomes and rising demand at food pantries. I was particularly drawn to the increased number of families living below the poverty level and growing utilization of state human service programs.
The downward trajectory in median household income continues in Illinois according to census numbers. Illinois median household income in 2009 was $53,966 or $6,000 less than a decade ago. The number of children living below poverty and eligible for free and reduced price lunches at school increased about 25 percent in the last decade and now totals over 581,000 children in Illinois.
Well over two million Illinoisans are now considered low income and six percent of the population is living in extreme poverty. This has created a sharp rise in demand at community food pantries, hunger among children attending school and people eligible for government programs. Meanwhile state revenue is dropping which makes it more difficult to balance the budget, reduce expenditures and fulfill program eligibility.
Over the summer I have been serving on a House task force looking at ways to eliminate poverty and help people gain employment. The challenges are daunting and involve basic life necessities like food, shelter and medical care before individuals can focus on skills and training needed to get a job.
The task force has been focused on triage and increased resources. We all are part of the solution and need to become aware of the families in poverty around us and ways we might be able to provide basic support and assistance. CROP Hunger Walks are being held around the state but it can’t end now. Talk about ways your friends and co-workers can help feed those who are hungry and trying to get on their feet.
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