As public servants, one of the most important things we can do each and every day is find ways to help people. I'm writing today to tell you about a new initiative from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources intended to do just that.
We're calling it "Target Hunger Now!" - a new effort to feed hungry families throughout Illinois.
"Target Hunger Now!" builds on the success of our Illinois Sportsmen Against Hunger program.
The IDNR is coordinating the effort with the support of some dedicated corporate, individual, and not-for-profit partners.
"Target Hunger Now!" works with sportsmen and meat processors to provide donated venison - and with commercial fishermen and processors to provide donated fish - funneling this "bounty of the outdoors" through the Illinois food bank network to put healthy meals on the tables of struggling Illinois families.
Deer hunters help manage our deer population - and many of them can donate the deer they take to provide venison for the program. Commercial fishermen can net thousands of pounds of fish from our waterways - and fish processors can provide ready-to-prepare, protein-rich fish for the program.
We at the Illinois DNR are proud to help facilitate these new ways to help families in need.
Working with local partners, we hosted two very successful kickoff events for "Target Hunger Now!" on Sept. 17 - during lunch hour at the Hesed House Aurora Soup Kitchen in Aurora and at dinner that evening at the Maywood Multi-Purpose Building in Maywood. We served protein-rich venison tacos to hundreds of individuals at those locations - and we're planning a number of other special events to highlight the program in the weeks ahead. Comcast Chicago captured video at these events which you can view on the IDNR website at this link (click on "Target Hunger Now! September event"): http://www.dnr.illinois.gov/Pages/NewsUpdates.aspx
Next week, we'll host dinner on Oct. 26 at the Humboldt Park Social Services in Chicago, lunch on Oct. 27 at New Mount Olive Baptist Church in Harvey, and lunch on Oct. 28 at the Marion Ministerial Alliance Soup Kitchen in Marion.
There is no question of the need for assistance like that which we are providing through "Target Hunger Now!" The USDA reports nearly a half-million children in the state are in households facing food insecurity. More than 1.6 million individuals and 756,000 households participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in Illinois (up 14 percent from last year). Nearly 2 million Illinois children were enrolled in the National School Lunch Program during the last school year.
Our target this year for "Target Hunger Now!" is to provide thousands of pounds of fish and distribution of 100,000 pounds of ground venison to food banks throughout the state.
I want to thank the partners who have already signed on to "Target Hunger Now!" - including Comcast, the Beta Club of Illinois, the Illinois Conservation Foundation, FeedingIllinois.org, and the Illinois Sportsmen Against Hunger program.
I would also like to encourage you, your company, or your organization to sign on as a partner in "Target Hunger Now!" by giving us a call at 217/785-0075.
Yours in conservation,
Director, Illinois Department of Natural Resource