Fighting hunger

DuPage County takes positive steps with grants to help food pantries

Hunger continues to be a real challenge for far too many residents living in the suburbs.

In a recent story about the Northern Illinois Food Bank, our Rick West reported that the organization serves roughly 540,000 people each month within its 13-county area, including DuPage, Lake, Kane and McHenry counties.

That is nearly double the number of neighbors the food bank served during the months before the pandemic.

Maeven Sipes, chief philanthropy officer for the food bank, told West that folks are still struggling and facing tough choices.

“Prices are higher than before,” Sipes said. “And even if people are working, their wages can’t keep up with what their expenses are looking like.”

So, we welcome anything local governments can do to make it easier for food pantries to assist those who need help.

One example happened last week when DuPage County Board members approved nearly $1 million in funding requests from 16 food pantries to help pay for trucks, refrigerators and other capital equipment needs.

The grants were possible because the county received more than $179 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act.

In September 2022, DuPage leaders set aside $5 million of those federal dollars to address the issue of food insecurity. Part of that included funding for long-term investments in food pantries.

We are pleased to see local food pantries benefiting 17 months after that decision.

The list of grant recipients approved last week includes the People’s Resource Center and the Bensenville Wood Dale Food Pantry, which got $145,565 and $109,251, respectively.

County Board member Greg Schwarze said the 16 food pantries that received funding plan to use the money to purchase trucks, refrigerators, walk-in coolers, freezers, software, computers, shelving and food storage containers.

“These targeted investments will make it easier to get fresh food to the neediest residents in our county quickly, provide important resources to local pantries and strengthen our food distribution network for decades to come,” Schwarze said in a written statement.

DuPage officials deserve a lot of credit. They found ways to spend money from the COVID-19 relief package in ways that will have a lasting impact in their county. They have, for example, used some of the federal dollars to address homelessness.

Food insecurity is a growing problem. It’s not going away anytime soon. So, we applaud DuPage for acknowledging the crisis and trying to seek solutions.

Meanwhile, it’s up to all of us in the suburbs to do whatever we can to help our neighbors. Please donate to a local food pantry or a charity combating hunger.

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