Significant numbers in Illinois struggle to get enough food
October 5, 2018

Photo courtesy Scarymommy
FRAC found that, in Illinois overall, 17.4% of households with children struggled with food hardship.

The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) and the Heartland Alliance’s Social Impact Research Center paint a picture of households and children struggling with food security in Illinois. The Illinois Hunger Coalition (IHC) is using this recent research to inform and expand its work to #EndHungerNow and end hunger’s underlying causes, especially in light of threats to food assistance.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) works to lift individuals and families out of poverty, offering an important lifeline for individuals.

“The data from FRAC and the Social Impact Research Center quantifies what the IHC has seen in its grassroots work in the past year,” said Diane Doherty, executive director of the Illinois Hunger Coalition. “The numbers show that weakening SNAP would only serve to exacerbate the problem of hunger faced by children and hard-working families both throughout the state and nationwide.”

Children are affected significantly by hunger and food hardship. FRAC found that, in Illinois overall, 17.4% of households with children struggled with food hardship in 2016-2017, 1.4 times higher than households without children. Illinois’s overall food hardship household rate, 14.0%, did not improve from 2015-2016, highlighting a significant need to keep SNAP strong. The Social Impact Research Center found that 17.3% of Illinois children, more than 500,000, struggle with food insecurity.

Also, while 14% of Illinois households struggle with food hardship, the research shows that only 13.3% of households statewide participate in SNAP. The IHC’s work in SNAP outreach and enrollment works to address this gap by traveling to community colleges, universities, community-based organizations (CBOs), households across rural Illinois counties, and CBOs across Cook County and the City Colleges of Chicago to inform, educate, and enroll individuals and households in food assistance.

The IHC’s efforts to expand SNAP eligibility to approximately 40,000 low-income Illinois college students succeeded this year when both houses in the Illinois General Assembly passed SB 351, the College Hunger Bill, and Governor Bruce Rauner signed it in July.

  The IHC also will be empower and register voters in low-income communities on the South Side of Chicago, where an average of 38% of households participate in SNAP, to advocate for programs that provide a positive impact and support policies that improve their communities.

The Illinois Hunger Coalition, founded in 1988, seeks to #Endhungernow by eliminating hunger’s causes through community organizing, advocating for progressive policy, and public education.

The FRAC report, How Hungry Is America? provides data on food hardship — the inability to afford enough food— nationally, for every state, the District of Columbia, and 108 metropolitan statistical areas across the country. The report is based on 337,690 interviews in 2016–2017. The Social Impact Research Center’s 2018 Illinois Poverty Report delves into Chicago community and Illinois township and county data to present findings on poverty and income, food insecurity, employment, and several other factors related to health and well-being.

For more information, log on to or call the Hunger Hotline at 1 (800) 359-2163.