Second Annual Southern Illinois Food Insecurity Summit held in Marion, Ill.

The Southern Illinois Food Insecurity Summit was held today in Marion, Ill.
Published: Sep. 8, 2022 at 5:36 PM CDT
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MARION, Ill. (KFVS) -Tackling the issue of food insecurity is a team game. Which is why several different organizations are joining forces to get food to those who need it.

Today, the Southern Illinois Food Insecurity Summit took place at the Pavilion in Marion.

Around 150 different individuals from across the region attended.

“Our region, we have a food insecurity rate of about 15 percent, so that’s our friends, families, neighbors that struggle with having enough food to eat,” said Toni Kay Wright, Extension Educator for Illinois Extension.

According to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap, that’s an estimated 45,000 people just in southern Illinois who have food insecurity.

That’s why Toni Kay Wright and others are searching for creative solutions for communities in hunger.

“The people here recognize that we have an issue with food access and food insecurity in our communities and I’m hoping that people leave here with re-energized and re-invigorated to support food access projects,” said Kay Wright.

One of the organizations in attendance was Arrowleaf. They have recently opened food pantries in Cairo and Vienna and are trying a different approach.

“We ask no questions, we ask their name, what county they live in, how many people are in their family. From that point they’re allowed to take a cart and they go up and down our aisles in the freezer and refrigerators and are able to shop just like a regular grocery store and get the needs for their family and children,” said Marsha Hayes, Community Engagement Coordinator at Arrowleaf.

Hayes says their Cairo location is open five days a week and their Vienna location is open three days a week. Both locations from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Hayes says those coming into the pantry are very thankful they opened.

“They’re so thankful and so appreciative of us opening that pantry there. Especially being a client’s choice. A lot of places they just get a bag or a box of food donated, but here they can actually choose what they’re going to eat, what the children like, and it’s all nutrition,” said Hayes.

The Arrowleaf pantry runs on donations. If you are looking to help them, you can reach out to them. More information can be found here.

According to Kay Wright, pantries are working to provide healthier foods.

“We really want to provide nourishing foods so that people can live their best life,” said Kay Wright.

September is Hunger Action Month. Leaders with the Southern Illinois Food Security Summit also say they will have their 3rd annual meeting next September.