Illinois Hunger and Poverty Policy Questions

Please read these questions and let us know what your organization and others in the Prairie State are doing to move legislation and policy in a direction that helps those in need.

Virtually all states have budget deficits and extensive financial problems this year and beyond.  The states are also the custodians and administrators of multi billions of dollars of federal assistance programs. State policies related to hunger and poverty contain a great deal of state money that is in short supply right now but much more federal money that can grow as the use of the programs grows.

These state policy questions are meant to begin a conversation about how states can deliver more services to their citizens who are facing extreme long term unemployment, hunger, home foreclosures and loss of health insurance and pensions. 

Please read them and let us know what your organization and others in your state are doing to move legislation and policy in a direction that helps those in need, especially the poorest of the poor, the millions of new poor, seniors, returning vets, children and the homeless.

Our intention is to create a place on our website that will highlight policy actions that state based organizations are taking and how they are proceeding.  We also hope to host a WhyHunger State Policy Award for the best state policies in the U.S.A.

1. Illinois is the 8th most unequal state in terms of income distribution. What is being done to address inequality and its effects in the state? Who is involved?
2. Unemployment in the state is one of the highest rates in the country, while the percentage of eligible people receiving unemployment insurance is only average. What can be done to increase awareness and reception of unemployment insurance? What else can be done to address the high levels of unemployment Illinois is facing?
3. There is a 1% tax on food, prescription drugs, and non-prescription drugs. Previous to the current recession, was there any plan to eliminate these taxes? Are any efforts still being made?
4. Those earning the lowest incomes pay 13% of their income in taxes, while the highest income earners pay 4.1% of their income in taxes. How can the tax burden be lifted from low-income individuals? Is there any movement to do so?
5. Illinois does not have a Shared Work Program.  Why not?  Is there any effort to bring one to the state?
6. Illinois has one of the highest numbers of participants in the School Lunch Program, but the percent of students who participate in both the School Lunch Program and the Breakfast Program is the lowest in the country.  Why is this?  How can both programs become more accessible?
7. The Summer Nutrition Program has high participation rates when compared to other states. When looking at the participation per 100 children in who participate in the School Lunch Program however, Illinois is below the national average. Is there any effort underway to increase participation or the number of locations where food can be accessed?
8. WIC Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program and Seniors Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program benefits are both below the national average.  Is there any effort to increase both rates especially since there are quite a large number of farmers and farmers markets involved?
9. Only 9% of families living below the Federal Poverty Line receive TANF.  Why such a low rate?  Is there any movement to increase TANF participation?
10. Education statistics for Illinois show very high participation in state Pre-K programs, high levels of high school completion, and a high number of people who have obtained their Bachelors Degree. What programs are in place to promote education and help students reach such high levels of education?
11. Illinois has the 8th highest number of imprisoned people in the United States. This accounts for over 6 percent of the annual state budget. Is there any effort being made to reform the prison system in Illinois such as reducing recidivism or alternative sentencing for non-violent offenders?
12. What other statewide policies or programs are you aware of that are helping to fight hunger and poverty, or are there any that are responsible for increasing it?

Please let us know what your organization and others in your state are doing to move legislation and policy in a direction to address these questions by contacting Executive Director and Co-Founder Bill Ayres at [email protected]

Feel free to inform us of any mistakes we may have made in any of these questions. Also we would appreciate any comments on policies or statistics that might have been overlooked.