Hunger may be invisible, but it has a face. A neighbor, colleague or even a relative may be among the one in seven Illinoisans at risk for hunger.
September is Hunger Action Month in Illinois and around the nation, and Illinoisans have been encouraged to fight hunger in their community throughout the month.
Donna Lake with the Northern Illinois Foodbank says residents in cities, suburbs and rural areas struggle to put food on the table, and she sees hunger in both young and old faces.
"We've got one here that says she can't afford to buy food after paying other expenses. She's on social security but has no other income," she says. "Another women, age 87, says she's not eligible for any other help so she needs this pantry to survive."
Baby boomers are especially vulnerable to hunger, Lake adds, because of health and economic factors. A recent Feeding America report found 63 percent - almost two-thirds - of adult clients at food banks and pantries are age 50 or older.
Lake encourages residents to volunteer their time assisting at their local food bank or pantry, because it can make a significant difference in people's lives. Money is always needed, but she assures donors their money is well spent.
"We want to make sure we're using their generosity in the most efficient and effective way possible," she says. "We can turn every $1 donated into $8 worth of groceries for a neighbor in need."
Lake says ending hunger is also a matter of health. At the Northern Illinois Foodbank, more than half of the households that need help have at least one member with high blood pressure, and 62 percent report choosing between paying for food or medicine.