Food Insecurity

New Data for Cook County Released

Food Insecurity Rate in Cook County. Click on image to view larger version of map.The Greater Chicago Food Depository released a study on Wednesday providing food insecurity details by community in Cook County.

The study is based on Food Insecurity in the United States 2009, compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Data was gathered for all of Chicago’s 77 community areas and 119 Cook County suburbs. The new findings point to strong links between unemployment and food insecurity, and to high concentrations in communities on the West and Southwest Sides of Chicago and in several Cook County suburbs.

Some of the key findings in the study are as follows:

  • In the City of Chicago, the rate of food insecurity is 20.6%; in suburban Cook County: 15.4%; 845,910 individuals in Cook County are food insecure, uncertain where they will find their next meal;
  • Riverdale (40.8%), Washington Park (34.0%), Englewood and North Lawndale (both at 31.2%) had the highest rates of food insecurity in the City of Chicago, while Ford Heights (55.5%), Robbins (45.0%) and Dixmoor (38.7%) had the highest rate in the suburbs
  • In Cook County, 36% of those who are food insecure – 304,528 individuals – earn more than 185% of the poverty level ($20,146 for a household of one) and are thus not eligible for most federal nutrition programs.

“We continue to see unacceptably high numbers of people who are food insecure in these difficult economic times,” said Kate Maehr, CEO and executive director of the Greater Chicago Food Depository. “These new findings will help us intensify our food distribution and program outreach to communities most in need.”

The Food Depository will use the data, which will be updated annually, as an important indicator of need and progress in fighting hunger in Cook County. The organization distributed a record 69 million pounds of nonperishable food and fresh produce, dairy products and meat in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011.

A key strategic goal is to increase the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables – on track to reach 20 million pounds this year – throughout its network of pantries, shelters, and soup kitchens. Number of Food Insecure Persons in Cook County. Click on image to view larger version of map.

The Food Depository distributes fresh produce to nearly all of Chicago’s 77 community areas, including many locations identified as “food deserts.” Chicago’s food bank is also focused on ensuring and increasing access to federal nutrition programs such as the national school breakfast program, SNAP and the Summer Food Service Program, all of which help families make ends meet.

Food insecurity is defined as follows:

  • Low food security: Reports of reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet.
  • Very low food security – Reports of multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake. Researchers estimate community-level food insecurity by examining the relationship between food insecurity and variables closely related to food insecurity at the state level.

These include unemployment, median income, poverty, and specific demographic measures.

For more information on the study and Food Insecurity Rates, visit the PDFs and links below.