Food Insecurity

What is it?

  • The USDA defines food insecurity as a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.
  • Contributors to food insecurity include unemployment, low wages, high housing and energy costs, high medical costs and food deserts.
  • While people from all walks of life experience food insecurity, vulnerable groups such as the elderly and ethnic minorities are at an increased risk.
  • According to a 2016 report by the Illinois Commission to End Hunger, nearly 1.7 million people in Illinois are food insecure. This translates to a statewide food insecurity rate of 12.9 percent. This percentage is even higher in the majority of Presence Health’s service areas, including Cook, Kankakee, Vermillion, and Champaign Counties.

Why do we care about it?

  • Food security is an important public health issue, with impacts across the lifespan.
  • Babies born to food insecure mothers are more likely to be underweight, which is in turn linked to health problems later in life, including diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
  • Children who are food insecure are hospitalized more often, often experience behavioral problems at school, and are at a higher risk of experiencing certain chronic health conditions such as anemia and asthma
  • Food insecurity hampers effective management of chronic diseases like diabetes
  • Food insecure older adults experience more difficulties with activities of daily living and are more likely to be depressed than their food secure counterparts

What is the Presence Health perspective?

  • Presence Health supports access to fresh, nutritious foods. Presence Health offers programs, engages in partnerships and supports public policies that alleviate poverty and hunger, and promote access to fresh, nutritious foods.
  • Presence Health partners to solve problems. Presence Saints Mary and Elizabeth Hospital is working to increase access to fresh and healthy food by opening a farmer’s market on campus and to offer double purchase value on produce to SNAP recipients. Presence Health partners with the Healthy Schools Campaign, an organization that works to promote healthier kids and a healthy school environment.

What’s new?

  • Fresh produce. Presence Health supports different grants for farmers markets that provide access to nutritious food in their communities.  These farmers markets typically target areas affected by food insecurity and areas of lower income.
  • West Town Health Market. Awarded a USDA grant in 2017, Presence Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center will increase the West Town Health Market on its campus to twice a month and provide incentives for SNAP recipients. The goal is to expand the accessibility of healthy foods, promote physical activity and combat childhood obesity by ensuring the availability of affordable, nutritious food and providing science-based nutritional guidance.
  • School gardens. Presence Health supported legislation that would allow schools that grow produce in their own gardens to prepare and serve it to students at the school.

AMITA Health Resources

Materials developed by AMITA Health to help you understand, communicate and engage on issues important to health care and our ministry.

Issue Brief – Food Insecurity

Get a PDF of the information on this page so you can easily print it or share it with others.

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External Resources

Information from third-party organizations that can be resources for you to continue to learn about the issues at hand.

Hunger Across Cook County

Hunger and food insecurity don’t discriminate: they affect people of all ages, races, and genders. They exist in every community in Cook County. They happen everywhere and could be affecting someone in your neighborhood today. Learn more.

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Food for Thought: How Food Insecurity Affects a Child’s Education

Food insecurity currently affects nearly 50 million people nationwide – most frequently, families with children. A recent Food Research & Action Center study revealed that as of April 2015, one in six households reported the inability to afford food. Learn more.

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