Stories of Hunger and Hope


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Choosing between having breakfast and paying the electric bill. Deciding between how many groceries to buy and how much gas to put in the car. Sacrificing medical care or even paying rent on time to have enough money for a home cooked meal. These are the difficult decisions that our neighbors and fellow community members who struggle with hunger make every day.

Nearly 1.5 million people in Illinois are impacted by hunger. That’s one in nine people in the state who do not have enough food. And those statistics include nearly 460,000 children.1

But the numbers only show a partial picture. Learning the stories of people who have to deal with the impact of a lack of food helps us provide better support to our neighbors in need. The two stories below reveal what it feels like to experience hunger and the vital role programs and services that provide free food play in our area.

Sam’s Story: A Week of Meals Gives Grieving Grandfather Stability

Losing a child can be devastating. During the tumultuous time of mourning a loved one, having stability can make all the difference. When Sam2 suddenly lost his son, he was reeling from grief. But as the newly appointed caretaker of his two young grandchildren, he also needed to stay strong.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, Sam had to balance paying his normal expenses, the mounting funeral costs and providing for his grandkids. There simply wasn’t enough money to cover everything.

That’s when Sam reached out to Holy Family Food Pantry, a funded community partner of United Way of Central Illinois. The organization provided Sam groceries for free that he could use to make meals at home. Having a week’s worth of food provided consistency in his family’s life during a difficult time and helped alleviate the financial burden Sam was experiencing.

Taylan’s Story: Mobile Food Pantry Reaches Rural Families

Local high school honor student Taylan2 might not seem like someone who is experiencing hunger. After all, as part of Virden’s National Honor Society, she volunteered to sort food and load boxes into families’ vehicles for Catholic Charities’ Mobile Food Pantry, a United Way of Central Illinois community partner.

But Taylan’s family doesn’t have a lot of money. Her mother makes the most out of a small income and that often means relying on the very services where Taylan and her classmates' volunteer.

Picking up groceries from local food pantries helps Taylan’s family afford other necessities like medical expenses and transportation. But in their rural community, food banks struggle to stay open. The pantry Taylan’s family relied on closed unexpectedly one day.

Fortunately, because of Taylan’s service project at school, she knew about the Mobile Food Pantry. This food pantry on wheels came to the rescue, delivering Taylan’s family and their neighbors the groceries they needed. It’s a resource the whole family appreciates greatly. The first time the truck arrived, Taylan’s mom was so touched by the amount of food the pantry provided, that she broke into tears of joy.

In 2018, our investments in meeting the basic needs of community members resulted in:

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1Source: Feeding America
2The name of these individuals have been changed to protect their identity

Stories of Hunger and Hope

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