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Statement on establishing Illinois Farm to Food Bank program

The Greater Chicago Food Depository commends the Governor and General Assembly for establishing the Illinois Farm to Food Bank program.

Sponsored by Representative Sonya Harper and Senator Linda Holmes, and signed into law today (August 3, 2023), HB2879 creates the Farm to Food Bank Program—an innovative program to increase the supply of nutritious, Illinois-grown and raised foods for Illinois families struggling to put food on the table. The program will:

  • Connect food banks with farms to purchase products like fruits, vegetables, milk, cheese, meat, and eggs directly from Illinois producers, and
  • Provide grants to support the aggregation, processing, transportation, storage, or distribution of agricultural products to underserved areas.

The program includes capacity-building grants that will support the emergency food system in connecting with new suppliers, including small and urban agricultural growers. Donations to food banks are primarily shelf-stable foods, meaning that food banks must source fresh produce, dairy, and proteins to provide their clients with a balanced, nutritious diet. Illinois produces these foods, but many farms would benefit from storage and aggregation capacity to connect with the emergency food system.

The Food Depository applauds the program’s provisions to advance equity, especially racial equity, in the Illinois agricultural system. The approach aligns with the Food Depository’s commitment to addressing the root causes of hunger – poverty, systemic inequity and structural racism - by supporting local minority-owned businesses and strengthening economic development in historically disinvested communities.

This legislation is the result of years of collaboration between Feeding Illinois, the Greater Chicago Food Depository, the Illinois Farm Bureau and Illinois Specialty Growers Association, and other dedicated advocates and is a priority of the Illinois Commission to End Hunger. We thank Senator Holmes, Representative Harper, and Governor Pritzker for their leadership in passing and funding the new program that will help food banks better respond to the need in their communities.

The Food Depository is committed to working with the administration to ensure the successful implementation of the program to support families and farmers across Illinois.

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