CARBONDALE, Ill.— In Illinois, nearly 1.4 million people struggle with hunger. Among them: 453,260 children. Fortunately, nearly 100 food pantries throughout the southernmost 16 counties collaborate to address this need. Together, they form the Southern Illinois Food Pantry Network.

 Thanks to a recent donation from Ameren Illinois and supplemental funding from Southern Illinois Healthcare (SIH), the Southern Illinois Food Pantry Network awarded six mini-grants in December. These mini-grants, totaling $10,000, will help reduce hunger and improve the health and well-being of our communities.

Grant recipients include:

  • Marion Salvation Army Food Pantry

  • Victory Dream Center of Carbondale

  • Daystar Community Program in Cairo

  • Murphysboro Food Pantry

  • Shawnee Development Council in Anna

  • Turning Point Hands of Hope Food Pantry in McLeansboro

The funding is intended for pantries working toward the implementation of healthier initiatives. The mini-grants can be used in any way that helps support the network’s mission and vision of providing access to healthy and nutritious food, education and resources to residents faced with food insecurity.

For example, the Daystar Community Program will use their funds to purchase a small commercial cooking stove to host cooking classes. Other pantries, such as Turning Point Hands of Hope Food Pantry, will purchase a computer and printer. This enhanced technology will support client tracking and enrich nutrition education as they plan to create a newsletter for the families they serve.

Other pantries will use the funds to increase the availability of healthier foods available and promote nutrition and physical activity by incorporating more recipes or educational posters throughout the pantry. The most requested item on the mini-grant application was cold storage (refrigerators, freezers, coolers) to accommodate more fresh foods.

“Many of our clients living in poverty have one or more health or medical issues that could be reduced with good. We have a collection of Red Shield Recipes that incorporate many of the items we have available in more nutritious and tasty options. Having healthier choices gives individuals encouragement to cook again which decreases the amount of processed foods that they are eating daily,” said Marion Salvation Army Social Services Coordinator Cami Horn.

News Source: Toni Kay Wright, (618) 993-3304, tkwright@illinois.edu

News Writer: Heather Willis, (618) 357-2126, hdwillis@illinois.edu

Nutrition statistics from Feeding America: What Hunger Looks Like in Illinois https://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/illinois