URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — Over two million Illinois residents rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for food assistance according to May totals from Illinois Department of Human Services. That number increased 14.4% from January as the effects of COVID-19 impacted the financial stability and food security of individuals and households across the state.
To help Illinois residents and families meet their basic food needs, the University of Illinois Extension is launching a new Illinois community food map in early August that allows individuals to search by Illinois zip code for all food resources in that area.
“Our map takes a whole community approach, mapping all helpful food resources, not only food pantries and summer meal sites,” says Caitlin Kownacki, SNAP-Ed Extension specialist with Illinois Nutrition Education Programs.
Residents who count on SNAP (or LINK) and other nutrition assistance programs, such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, typically search multiple, specific websites to find the resources they need.
The new Illinois community food map combines all resources in one geolocation mapping tool, making it particularly convenient for those with limited access to transportation.
In addition to locating food pantries and school and summer meal sites, households seeking food support will be able to search specific areas for the nearest grocery stores, food retailers, farmers markets, and roadside farm stands that accept SNAP (LINK), WIC, or senior food benefits.
Illinois SNAP and WIC offices, where individuals can sign up to receive benefits, are included in search results as well.
While this resource aims to help all Illinois residents looking for food assistance, Kownacki believes it will be especially valuable for single parents, single-head-of-household families, and households with children.
In 2018 an American Community Survey Brief by the U.S. Census Bureau reported 31.6% of national households participating in SNAP were single-head-of-household families, and 50.9% of SNAP households in Illinois have children under the age of 18.