SKOKIE, IL — Food is seen as a basic human right, yet the coronavirus pandemic has caused an unprecedented spike in hunger, affecting families right here in Skokie as well as others living in the far corners of the world.

In 2019, almost 690 million people around the world went hungry, an increase of 10 million people from 2018, according to the United Nations’ global State of Food Security and Nutrition report. Of the 2019 total, 35 million were in the United States.
The coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated hunger.
The level of hunger in U.S. households almost tripled between 2019 and August of this year, according to an analysis of data from the Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
While it’s too soon to assess the full impact of coronavirus lockdowns and other containment measures, the United Nations report estimates that at minimum, another 83 million people — and possibly as many as 132 million — may go hungry in 2020.
To spur collective action among its 150 member countries and draw attention to the sheer number of people suffering from chronic hunger, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations created World Food Day. First celebrated in 1979, the day is observed annually on Oct. 16.
In honor of World Food Day, here are some key things to know about the day, food insecurity in and around Skokie, and how you can help.

1) The coronavirus is profoundly affecting hunger in Cook County.

In Cook County, about 10.1 percent of residents were considered food insecure in 2018, according to data compiled by Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization. Due to the pandemic, that number is expected to climb to 15 percent by the end of 2020.
In Skokie, before COVID-19, there were nearly 11,500 residents at risk of food insecurity, nearly one in five residents, according to the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
In the first eight months of 2020, the number of people served every month by food pantry-style programs in Skokie decreased by more than 2,900 — falling from from more than 6,400 in January of 2020 to under 3,600 in August, according to data collected by the depository, which noted lower numbers do not indicate a decreased need.
From March 17 to May 27, Niles Township operated a supplemental food pantry at a vacant warehouse in Morton Grove.
RELATED: Niles Township Serves Over 6,400 People, Distributes Groceries
The township pantry at 8341 Lockwood Avenue, Skokie, is currently open from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on weekdays, and also from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, according to its website.
Other nearby food pantries include:

2) World Food Day adopts a different theme each year to highlight where work needs to be done.

Each year, World Food Day selects a theme, which often focuses on agriculture and the important role it plays in the food system. In previous years, themes have focused on climate change, family farming and food prices, among others.
This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the entire global food system and laid bare its fragility. Border closures, trade restrictions and confinement measures have disrupted domestic and international food supply chains, according to the FAO website, ultimately reducing access to healthy and safe diets.
This year’s theme is “Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together.” The theme is a “call for global solidarity” to help those affected recover from the coronavirus crisis. It also calls for using the pandemic as an opportunity to build a more resilient and robust food system.

3) If our food systems are not transformed, undernourishment and malnutrition will greatly increase by 2050.

Malnutrition in all its forms — undernutrition, micronutrient
deficiencies, as well as overweight and obesity — takes an estimated $3.5 trillion toll on the global economy each year.
Additionally, a combination of poor diets and sedentary lifestyles has led to soaring obesity rates, not only in developed countries but also low-income countries, where hunger and obesity often coexist. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just over 42 percent of Americans are considered obese.
The FAO estimates undernourishment and malnutrition will only accelerate if income inequality, employment or access to basic services continue to deteriorate.

4) Events are planned each year to commemorate World Food Day.

A large number of annual events are organized in United Nations member countries to recognize World Food Day. Events range from marathons, hunger marches and exhibitions to cultural performances, contests and concerts.
This year, however, many events have moved online due the pandemic.
See a full map of World Food Day events here.
If no events are happening nearby, join the #WorldFoodDay conversation on social media by sharing any of the free material available on the World Food Day website. You can also express appreciation to #FoodHeroes online — those who, throughout the crisis, have made sure that food makes its way to local tables.

5) There are several ways you can help fight hunger.

Here are some tips and suggestions on how you can fight hunger and help support World Food Day’s mission, according to the event website:

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