Community Development / Food

Preckwinkle Visits Maywood To Announce New Food Security Initiative

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A worker unloading food from a Greater Chicago Food Depository truck. | Roosevelt Institute 

Wednesday, January 6, 2015 || By Nicholas Samuel || Updated: 11:26 PM

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle was in Maywood on Jan. 5 to announce the creation of the Cook County Food Access Task Force—an entity that will be operated out of Preckwinkle’s office in collaboration with the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

The Task Force will be responsible for implementing three initiatives — which include expanding food insecurity screenings, creating a Suburban Cook County Child Nutrition work group and increasing the use of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits — within two years.

“Every morning, people across our community wake up not knowing if they will have enough food to eat,” said Kate Maehr, executive director and CEO of the Greater Chicago Food Depository, at a press conference held Tuesday afternoon at the Vision of Restoration Food Pantry, 1405 Madison St.

The VOR food pantry services more than 300 local households each month and is one of 650 agencies and programs within the Food Depository’s Cook County Network, according to a county statement.

“The consequences of food insecurity are as serious in suburban communities as they are in the city neighborhoods,” Maehr said. “The Cook County Food Access Plan will create an even stronger county-wide response to ensure more of our neighbors have the nutritious food they need.”

According to county data, more than 760,000 Cook County residents struggle with food insecurity, 30 percent of whom live in suburban communities. One in five children in the county is at risk of hunger.

“Hunger impacts every facet of life and through this call to action, together with the Greater Chicago Food Depository and with the assistance of our Health and Hospitals System, we are determined to aggressively address this important issue,” said Preckwinkle at the press conference.

The county is seeking to enhance patient access to community food resources by expanding its customizable food insecurity screenings and referral systems to all Cook County Health and Hospitals Systems locations.

It hopes to increase student access to, and participation in, school breakfast and summer meal programs by creating an outreach group to work to that effect.

And by collaborating with numerous partners, county officials said they hope to encourage best practices in the administration of federally sponsored meal programs.

“Lots of children in Chicago and its surrounding suburbs eat one or two meals a day at school, but it’s a problem in the summer because there’s no school,” said Frank Shuftan, Director of Communications for Toni Preckwinkle. “It’s important for children to eat healthy and learn properly.”

Jim Conwell, a spokesperson for the Greater Chicago Food Depository, noted that the collaboration between the county and his organization may encourage the use of SNAP benefits and incentive programs by needy residents at famers markets and farm stands.

“SNAP programs are the best tool in our nation in the fight against hunger and farmers markets are an underutilized program for getting food,” Conwell said. “Increasing the number of farmers markets that accept SNAP benefits in Cook County allows more federal dollars to be spent at local businesses. It’s beneficial to Cook County.”

“Lots of children in Chicago and its surrounding suburbs eat one or two meals a day at school, but it’s a problem in the summer because there’s no school,” said Frank Shuftan, Director of Communications for Toni Preckwinkle. “It’s important for children to eat healthy and learn properly.”

Organizations that the county is seeking to potentially collaborate with on these initiatives include ACCESS Community Health Network, Archdiocese of Chicago, Chicago Community Trust, Illinois Hunger Coalition, Cook County Board of Commissioners, Cook County Department of Public Health, No Kid Hunger, and Cook County Public Affairs and Communications. VFP

This post has been updated to reflect that the press conference took place on Jan. 5, not Dec. 5. VFP regrets this error.

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