By John Dodge
CHICAGO (CBS) — Nearly 800,000 people in Cook County, including one in five children, struggle to have access to healthy food and are at risk of hunger, according to a new study.
Rising food prices are making it a challenge for many people who are labeled “food insecure,” according the Map The Meal Gap 2014 study.
“Hundreds of thousands of our neighbors struggle to access food on a daily basis,” said Kate Maehr, Greater Chicago Food Depository Executive Director and CEO. “As men and women throughout our community face high unemployment and stagnant income, the continued rise in food prices places additional strain on households across Cook County.”
According to the study, the weighted cost per meal in Cook County in 2012 was $2.55 – a continued increase from $2.51 in the previous year and $2.45 in 2010.
Hunger continues to disproportionately affect children as 255,180 of the food insecure individuals in Cook County are under the age of 18. This equates to 20.8 percent of Cook County’s child population.
The new data is based on a combination of factors from the U.S. Census Current Population Survey and county-level factors such as unemployment, median income, poverty, homeownership, and demographic measures.
“What I would say is, whether the number is 800,000 or 810,000, it’s too many people,” said Kate Maehr, executive director of the Greater Chicago Food Depository. “We are living in the greatest city in the greatest country in the world. And despite that we have an unbelievable number of people who wake up each morning, uncertain where they’re going to get their next meal.”
Maehr says one of the biggest issues is the cost of food, which she says is rising.
One of the most sobering points in the study, she says, is that one in five children is struggling with “food insecurity.”
The overall number of food insecure individuals in Cook County in 2012 is 7.4 percent lower than 2011 data.
Food insecurity is defined as a lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods.
Visit www.chicagosfoodbank.org to donate to the Greater Chicago Food Depository