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Regional Food Summit Addressing Food Access and Security Across Southern Illinois

Hunger is often hidden, but it is a huge issue in southern Illinois. In fact, according to Feeding America's Map the Meal Gap, more than 45,000 (14.3%) southern Illinoisans struggle with having enough food to eat. Food insecurity affects adults and children, with rates among children ranging by county from 17.9% to 29.5%, translating to over 12,000 hungry children in southern Illinois. Hunger can have severe, long-lasting health effects, especially among children, including stunted growth and cognitive impairments. Adults have a greater risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease and often have to choose where to spend their money – on food or medicine. Ending hunger is not just one person or one agency's priority. There are numerous organizations and agencies supporting food security efforts across the region. The Southern Illinois Food Security Summit will allow these agencies to collaborate, learn, network, and prioritize healthy food access initiatives for southern Illinoisans.

The second annual Southern Illinois Food Security Summit on September 8 will identify strategies to reduce food insecurity among southern Illinoisans and build the health of our region. Stephen Ericson, Executive Director for Feeding Illinois, will be the keynote speaker highlighting nutrition security efforts and increasing healthy, fresh, local produce in our food banks and food pantries through the Farmer to Food Bank initiative. Participants will then hear from various southern Illinois food access projects through short-dynamic lightning talks. Speakers will highlight SNAP-EBT and Link Match programs at Farmers Markets, food insecurity screening and referral efforts, and taking a trauma-informed approach to address food security. Three agencies will share how their Food Security Summit mini-grant impacted local efforts. Finally, the day will end with participants working together to identify and prioritize strategies to support southern Illinois food access and nutrition security. A limited number of exhibitors will be set up to connect Summit participants to agencies that support food access efforts, including regional food banks, Healthy Southern Illinois Delta Network, Southern Illinois Food Pantry Network, Illinois CATCH on to Health Consortium, University of Illinois Extension, Illinois State Board of Education, and Illinois Department of Human Services - WIC program, United States Department of Agriculture.

The summit is scheduled for September 8 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the City of Marion Pavilion located at 1602 Sioux Drive in Marion, Illinois. Food pantries, schools, healthcare providers, farmers, businesses, religious and community organizations, and community members interested in addressing food security are encouraged to attend. The cost of attendance is $15 and includes lunch. Register now at For more information, call Toni Kay Wright at 618-993-3304 or