Food Insecurity and its Effects
Food insecurity has always been a problem in the South and West sides of Chicago. The question then arises, What is food insecurity? According to Feeding America, “Food Insecurity refers to a lack of available financial resources for food at the household level.” There are many people, mostly families, that suffer from this problem. Food Insecurity not only requires people to acquire food in other ways but causes families to rely on food pantries or other methods of acquiring food.
It also has many negative effects when it comes to overall health, in particular, children. “It is also associated with higher risks of being hospitalized and poorer general health, and with having asthma, behavioral problems, depression, suicide ideation, and worse oral health,” according to Health Affairs. These are only a small amount of the effects that food insecurity encompasses.
Food Pantries Come Together In Chicago’s West Side
Chicago’s West and South sides are notorious for being food insecure. The West Side has an increasing need for food, especially after the pandemic. Many families are not receiving enough income, and therefore, are suffering from food insecurity. Food pantries are taking this into account, and want to make a difference.
Jehovah Jireh has a food pantry that offers free food to residents. According to Austin Weekly News, “At Jehovah Jireh’s food pantry, located at 5116 W. Chicago Ave., residents can get free pantry items, like canned food, pasta, and other nonperishable items.” There have been many residents that use this as a go-to. Many are still being affected by the pandemic, inflation, or low-paying jobs. Jireh believes in providing nutritional food to those that need it and strays away from unhealthy foods.
An initiative has been created to help Jehovah Jireh and many other food pantries, in their mission. This initiative is called the “AustinEats Initiative.” According to Austin Weekly News, “In the summers of 2020 and 2021, the group organized free food distribution days in Austin with support from the Greater Chicago Food Depository.”
These two summers were when the COVID pandemic was at its peak. They still were able to feed many families, despite the conditions that everyone was facing at that time. AusinEats includes many other food pantries, such as Bethel New Life, Hope Community Church, Beyond Hunger, along with many more.
Inflation Creates Problems for Food Pantries
The amount of people that are food insecure continues to rise in the West Side of Chicago. This creates a higher demand for healthy food. This is starting to become a little difficult for many pantries to keep up with. Their vision still stands, which is to help people that are struggling. This continues to get even harder as the years go by. “As inflation continues to increase the cost of food and transportation, it becomes challenging to serve more people. At the same time, the number of people experiencing food insecurity continues to rise,” According to Austin Weekly News. Therefore, they need more support from other organizations, to keep their mission intact.
Chicago’s West Side is Hopeful
These initiatives and food pantries are raising eyebrows all across the city. These pantries and initiatives are saving many lives. This goes to show that there is still a good amount of hope for the west side. Although it has been a very long and tedious journey, it has still been made possible because many organizations are believing in this mission, and are doing everything in their power to support this mission and the West Side of Chicago. Raising awareness plays a very important role in being able to support many food-insecure families and communities on the West side.
Written by David Loran Jr
Health Affairs: Food Insecurity and Health Outcomes
Feeding America: What is Food Insecurity?
Austin Weekly News: Food pantries respond to rising need on West Side
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Timothy Neesams’ Flickr Page (Creative Commons License)
Inset Image Courtesy of Feed My Starving Childrens’ Flickr Page (Creative Commons License)