Food prices, inflation threaten food security for Illinois families

Supply-chain issues, inflation and job loss during the pandemic have put many families' food security at risk.

In Illinois, hunger remains higher than pre-pandemic levels. Recent census surveys show 7% of households in the state are considered food insecure, and it jumps to 12% for households with children.

Jim Conwell, senior director of marketing and communications for the Greater Chicago Food Depository, said for families already concerned about making ends meet, increased grocery prices are hitting household budgets hard.

"Add on top of that, as we enter the winter months, increased costs for utilities and home heating," Conwell outlined. "There's going to be more families who are struggling to make it through a month and get all the foods they need."

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, food prices overall have increased 6.8% since November 2020. Prices for meat, poultry, fish and eggs have risen more than 12%, and they're up 4% for fresh produce.

And with the ongoing challenge of rising prices, Conwell pointed out it can be even more difficult for families to get back on track, despite many people going back to work and schools reopening.

"Households with children and households of color have been disproportionately impacted by the increased need during COVID-19," Conwell reported. "Here in this area, Black and Latino households are more than twice as likely to experience food insecurity as white households."

He added the Food Bank also has mobile pantries for people who can't get out to shop for groceries, as well as programs for enrolling in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Between 2019 and 2021, SNAP has seen an increase of seven million people receiving benefits.

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