(Connections for the Homeless photo)

To many of us, Thanksgiving in the world of COVID means not visiting grandma. But to others, Thanksgiving is just another day with not enough to eat.

Cook County officials say, “Since the COVID-19 pandemic, food insecurity has doubled overall, and tripled in households with children.”

Both the County and Connections for the Homeless in Evanston are taking extra steps to feed the hungry at this holiday. Connections already provides three meals a day to about 75 people housed in a local hotel.

Thanks to a $30,000 grant from the county, and additional $50,000 in contributions, Connections will provide two meals a day five days a week to 25 more households, including a total of 60 family members.

Jen Kouba, associate director of development at Connections, says the additional food comes from several Evanston restaurants, so the program benefits the homeless, along with individuals who are in homes with eviction prevention funding, plus the restaurants, who are financially strapped during the pandemic.

As for Thanksgiving itself, Kouba says volunteers will deliver 100 turkeys and 25 chickens, along with traditional side dishes, to Connections clients.

The pandemic has led to higher unemployment, which in turn means more people are turning to food banks. Pre-pandemic, Connections saw about 250 food bank clients per month in Evanston. Now it’s 450.

Prof. Diane Schanzenbach, Director of the Institute of Policy Research at Northwestern University is an expert on the economics of poverty. Schanzenbach says about 11% of households in the metropolitan Chicago region are dealing with hunger, a significant increase over the percentage before COVID-19.

And while much of the focus on hunger right now is because of Thanksgiving, Schanzenbach says there has been “a surge in need at food banks the past two weeks,”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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