Food insecurity discussed at lecture Monday

Logan Raschke, Staff Reporter

Sociology professor Michael Gillespie gave a talk about hunger at the Lecture Hall of the Doudna Fine Arts Center Monday night.

Gillespie said the problem of food insecurity is one that will stick around.

“Food insecurity’s not going anywhere, unfortunately, within our town,” said Gillespie.

Michael Gillespie said food insecurity can be boiled down to being unsure where someone’s next meal will come from.

Michael Gillespie said he has done research on the topic of hunger and concluded that nearly half of Eastern’s student population exhibits clear signs of food insecurity.

An email was sent to undergraduate and graduate students of all years enrolled at Eastern to participate in a survey for the purpose of discovering approximately how many people were affected by food insecurity, he said.

“Based on this first round (of surveys), what I’ve found for the overall food insecurity of students on Eastern Illinois’ campus is 39.8 percent,” he said. “Another way to think about it is every two of five students on our campus are at risk of not knowing where their next meal is coming from.”

When it comes to Coles County as a whole, he said the total population of individuals affected by food insecurity is 41.3 percent, and the number of families with children that are affected is 46.5 percent.

When it comes to college students, Michael Gillespie said the cost of tuition alone can heavily increase someone’s chances of having food insecurity while attending school.

“The value of having a college education in this day and age is at a premium, and paying for that college education is also at a premium,” he said.

Worrying about running out of food, not being able to afford balanced meals and cutting or skipping meals are all indicators of some form of food insecurity, and over 80 percent of Eastern’s campus said they experience all these factors, he said.

Additionally, populations that are often marginalized, such as people of color, members of the GSD community, the elderly and children, are at an increased risk of suffering from food insecurity, he said.

A couple of definite ways to battle hunger include volunteering for the Eastern and Charleston community and donating food, supplies or money to those in need, Michael Gillespie said.

Beth Gillespie, the interim director of the Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteerism, said she wants all students to understand there are resources on and off campus for those in need of food.

“We do have three food pantries here in Charleston. There’s the Newman Food Pantry, there’s the Charleston Food Pantry, and the third food pantry here in town is Standing Stone,” she said.

The Office of Civic Engagement drives student volunteers out to help with the Charleston Food Pantry every Tuesday to help serve anywhere from 15 to 25 families, Beth Gillespie said.

She said if someone wants to contribute to the food pantries, instead of giving financial donations they can either volunteer their time or donate canned goods.

Beth Gillespie said a good way to inform others that these resources are free and available for everyone is to post information on bulletin boards, in offices or in residence halls.

“Just because you’re (not suffering from) food (insecurity) doesn’t mean that somebody right around you is not, and they may not be comfortable yet asking for help, so this can be a really great way for us to spread the word that there are resources right here in our community,” she said.

Logan Raschke can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].