Eastern Il. Food Bank discuss food bank handouts

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Illinois Senator Mike Frerichs makes his opening statement during the third annual Hunger Symposium held at the Champaign Public Library on Monday night. Senator Frerichs said ” I am here because I believe that state government has a roll to play in the reduction of poverty” and “It is a problem throughout the state.”

By Alexis Pope

The Eastern Illinois Food Bank and WILL AM/FM/TV/Online presented the third annual Hunger Symposium at the Champaign Public Library on Sept. 28.

Eight panelists spoke: Steve Anderson, Associate Professor in the School of Social Work ; Donna Camp, Director and Co-founder of the Wesley Evening Food Pantry; Senator Mike Frerichs, D-52; Representative Naomi Jakobsson, D-103; Jennifer Hrycyna of the Shriver Center; Lyn Jones, President and CEO of the United Way of Champaign County; Kate Maehr, Executive Director of the Greater Chicago Food Depository; and Amy Terpstra of Social IMPACT Research Center.

Jim Hires, Executive Director of the food bank, said the number of individuals who receive services from the food bank has increased by 30 percent. According to a YouTube video presented by the Eastern Illinois Food bank, it serves 150,000 to 200,000 meals per month.

Terpstra discussed the amount of poverty and the types of economic trends in Central Eastern Illinois. She said that 50 percent of people are living below the federal poverty level, citing the U.S. Census Bureau.

Terpstra said that middle-class individuals are receiving food from food banks in Illinois. She added that they are a part of the asset poverty, otherwise known as the working poor. This group refers to a “household’s lack of savings or financial cushioning that limits their ability to sustain temporary financial set-back,” according to the panel.

In Champaign County, 18.2 percent of the population lives in poverty, including child poverty at 18.4% percent and asset poor families at 33 percent. The 2008 numbers that describe the level of poverty in Illinois will be released on Tuesday.

Jakobsson, discussed a new law, Hunger Relief Food, which will offer grants to food banks in Illinois.

Jakobsson said, “If people throughout the state participate, this can help the food banks throughout Illinois.”

Frerichs told the audience, “There aren’t many dollars.”

He added that the state needs more revenue from the state and make better use of it.

“(We) need to work on a progressive tax structure that doesn’t hurt the working poor,” Frerichs said.

He said this reform is radical, but he wants to reintroduce this new tax structure to the state.

The panelists all said they agreed that “hunger is a fundamental right” and the poor should not be punished for the economic status.