URBANA – A University of Illinois Extension team has designed a map for people to locate food resources in their zip codes. It’s tailored to families and individuals who struggle to afford food.
Included on the map are grocery stores, farmers’ markets, food pantries, and school and summer meal sites. The map also pinpoints Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) offices for those seeking benefits.
“We’re trying to make it easier for people to find the food resources in their community, in a one-stop-shop mapping tool,” says Caitlin Kownacki, a U of I Extension specialist and the project’s leader.
She says families often rely on numerous different resources to provide information on where to find food. This map combines them all.
“If I need food, I maybe don’t know all those places to go and find that. I maybe don’t have time,” she says. “This is important because it brings everything together into one spot.”
Kownacki says the project was in the works before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think now with COVID, the audience is actually a lot more broad because there’s a lot of other people who are now facing some of these challenges that maybe have never faced that challenge in the past,” she says.
The map is up-and-running and will be updated in real-time. It comes at a time when rates of food insecurity are skyrocketing due to economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. According to Census Bureau data, currently in Illinois, approximately 20% of families with children are reporting food insecurity. Families of color are disproportionately affected, with 28% of Black families and 31% of Hispanic families considered food insecure.
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