Carlos Barria / Reuters

Infrastructure for poverty assistance in the suburbs can't keep up with increased demand

We know suburban poverty is on the rise, and as the Chicago Tribune reports, one effect of that trend has been a huge increase in demand for food assistance.

Suburban food banks around the Chicago area are reportedly running short on supplies as greater numbers of families are turning to aid groups for help. The Tribune looks specifically at the Northern Illinois Food Bank, which serves 13 counties around Chicago. According to a hunger study [PDF] performed in 2010, the food bank has seen the number of people it serves rise 168 percent since 2006. The food bank served more than 500,000 people that year, 48 percent of whom were under 18. The food bank has even opened a new suburban branch in the last month to try to cope with demand.

Other branches are seeing similar increases, but food aid and government support aren’t able to keep up. Budget reductions for the federal emergency food assistance program coupled with rising costs at the Greater Chicago Food Depository will force some food pantries to cut their services by more than half next year, according to the Tribune.

Cuts of this sort could turn out to have devastating timing for struggling suburban families, whose ranks have risen 53 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to new research from the Brookings Institution. This compares to a 23 percent increase in cities. Northern Illinois saw its poverty rolls rise 42 percent between 2000 and 2007, according to the Northern Illinois Food Bank report. It’s highly likely that number has further increased since then.

So will suburban areas respond to their somewhat new situation of being poverty centers by beefing up services for their rising poor populations? Or will poor families bail out on their suburban dreams to find places – likely cities – that are better suited to provide the support they need? Or both?

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Stella Bowles stands on a riverbank.
    Environment

    How One Kid Stopped the Contamination of a River

    To halt the illegal flow of raw sewage into Nova Scotia’s LaHave River, it took a determined 11-year-old with water samples and a Facebook page.

  2. Illustration of a house with separate activities taking place in different rooms.
    POV

    The Case for Rooms

    It’s time to end the tyranny of open-concept interior design.

  3. An LAPD officer looks in a tent on Skid Row in Los Angeles, California.
    Equity

    The Homelessness Problem We Don’t Talk About

    The barriers formerly incarcerated people face are creating a housing crisis—and no one is paying attention.

  4. Maps

    This Guy's Never Met a Map He Didn't Want to Fix

    Just not always for the better: "I've deliberately designed maps that are deliberately horrible to look at, and succeeded."

  5. Transportation

    Crumbling Sidewalks Become a Legal Battleground

    A lawsuit in Atlanta reflects a growing movement that demands accessible, well-maintained sidewalks—and rejects budgetary constraints as an excuse.