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Healthy Food
Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
11:58am
Tue Mar 3, 2015

Over 1,000 IL Schools Joined Federal Free Meal Program This Year

More than 14,000 high-poverty schools nationwide -- including over 1,000 in Illinois -- adopted a new federal program this academic year aimed at improving access to free meals for students, according to a new analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).

The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), included in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, enables qualifying high-poverty schools to serve no-cost breakfast and lunches to all students. The program, designed to make school meal operations more efficient and help reduce hunger, eliminates the need for schools to collect household applications to determine which students are eligible for free or reduced-priced meals.

Community eligibility, which began as a pilot program in 11 states, including Illinois, became an option for qualifying schools nationwide this academic year. Illinois was among three states, allong with Kentucky and Michigan, to roll out community eligibility in some schools in the 2011-2012 academic year.

"Community eligibility not only reduces redundant paperwork at high-poverty schools but also makes possible huge gains in meeting vulnerable children's nutritional needs by providing them with a healthy breakfast and lunch at school each day," CPBB's report reads. "Reliable access to healthy meals, in turn, better prepares students to learn. The popularity of community eligibility in its first year of nationwide implementation speaks to schools' desire to improve access to healthy meals while reducing red tape, as well as to the option's sound design."

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
5:37pm
Thu Mar 20, 2014

Chicago's Food Deserts Are A 'Civil Rights Issue', Experts Say

While the population of food deserts may have arguably decreased over recent years in Chicago, a number of obstacles still remain when it comes to expanding access to healthy foods in the city, according to panelists who discussed the topic Thursday afternoon.

The Illinois Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights hosted the talk in Chicago to hear from public, private and non-profit leaders who work on food access issues. Back in 2011, the committee issued its own report about Chicago food deserts, a problem it says must be addressed as a civil rights issue.

Food deserts are communities that lack healthy, fresh food options. In Chicago, African-American and Latino communities tend to face the greatest food access challenges. The Emanuel administration has worked to expand food access by bringing in new grocery stores, additional farmers markets and more produce carts, among other efforts.

But panelists at the discussion, held at Kennedy-King College on Chicago's South Side, noted that poverty and high prices for healthy foods are big barriers standing in the way of eliminating food deserts. 

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
4:29pm
Thu Jan 9, 2014

Report Highlights SNAP Reform Proposals Meant To Reduce Hunger, Promote Nutrition

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a crucial anti-hunger and anti-poverty tool, but a handful of reforms are needed to boost the program's overall effectiveness, argues Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, an associate professor at Northwestern University's School of Education and Social Policy.

About one in eight U.S. families depend on SNAP benefits, at about $1.40 per meal, for food aid. More than 2 million people in Illinois rely on the $80-billion-a-year program, which has helped to reduce hunger and rates of food insecurity in the country, while also providing support to families who face unexpected economic setbacks.

In a recent discussion paper for the Hamilton Project, Schanzenbach noted that despite the program's successes, obesity rates in the nation are still high, the method of determining food aid benefits is outdated and SNAP coverage during economic recessions needs to be improved.

PI Original
by Ellyn Fortino
1:24pm
Wed Aug 21, 2013

Experts: New Chicago Food Desert Numbers Not As 'Rosy' As Emanuel Says

Last week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that the population of food deserts in Chicago declined 21 percent over the past two years thanks to 15 new grocery stores, additional farmers markets and more produce carts. But those working on the ground to combat food-access issues in Chicago say the new numbers are not as sweet as they appear.

PI Original
by Ellyn Fortino
6:40pm
Tue Apr 30, 2013

CPS Lunchroom Workers Call For Healthier Food In Schools (VIDEO)

About a dozen school lunchroom workers protested outside Chicago Public Schools’ headquarters today and called on the Board of Education to phase out its frozen food model and provide healthier meals for students. Progress Illinois was there for the rally.