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Over 800,000 Cook County Residents Needed Food Assistance, Study Finds

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CHICAGO (CBS) — A new study says a lot of Chicago area people continue to have a hard time feeding themselves and their families.

WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports, The Hunger in America study finds that 808,000 people in Cook County–one in every six people–received items from food pantries, shelters or soup kitchens in the past year.

“If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know how I’d make it, honestly,” says Bob Russell, who receives food from the Union Avenue United Methodist Church.

For years, he and his wife volunteered there, helping to feed those in need.

A few years ago, after Russell’s wife passed away and he lost his job, he found himself in line.

He says he was embarrassed at first, but with four children to feed he had no choice.

“You go in, and you shop and they give you some dignity,” Russell says. “They load you up with food and then you don’t have to worry about them cabinets being empty for your kids, because that’s the hardest thing.”

Jim Conwell, spokesman for the Greater Chicago Food Depository says the “face of hunger” may look entirely different from what you imagine.

He says 91 percent of people say they live in a house or apartment.

A total 57 percent say they’ve held a job in the past 12 months, and 18 percent are military veterans.

The study also points out the link between people’s health and how well they’re able to put food on the table.

A total of 44 percent of those getting food pantry help describe themselves in fair to poor health, and 60 percent of them say someone in their household has high blood pressure.

In addition, 35 percent of them have diabetes.