Durbin hears about need to support food programs during stop at Boys & Girls Club of Decatur

By:  Kenneth Lowe
Decatur Herald & Review

Hunger is a problem in Macon County, and the numbers are increasingly backing that up, local organizations told U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin during his visit to the Boys & Girls Club of Decatur on Friday.

The Illinois Democrat talked with youngsters getting their snacks at the club before speaking with personnel who said Macon County residents increasingly have been lining up at food pantries and taking advantage of meal programs.

"I know people who say, ‘Hunger isn't in my community,' " said Pam Molitoris, executive director of the Central Illinois Food bank, at which she said has seen need literally double in Decatur during the last two years."The reality is that the person who is hungry is your neighbor."

Decatur Park District Board Vice President Chris Riley said his organization provided 82,000 meals to kids over the last year through federal programs.

It's a sad statistic that brings to light concerns over what kind of nutrition kids in low-income families are receiving when they aren't relying on school lunches or such meal programs, Durbin said.

Bruce Jeffery, program director for the Boys & Girls Club, said the thinking has been to try to give kids nutritious food along with the sugar they get too much of at home or on their own.

"They want sugar, so what we've tried to do is not necessarily eliminate all the sugar, but to incorporate some healthy things into the sugar," Jeffery said.

Durbin also spoke on some other issues. He said failing to extend the nation's debt limit could have dire consequences for the United States' reputation abroad.

"That's a bad thing, particularly with countries like Portugal and Greece literally going bankrupt," Durbin said. "We have a good reputation, and we don't want to ruin it because people in Washington are squabbling."

He said entitlements must be tackled but criticized Republican House voucher plans for Medicare as unaffordable for the elderly.

On the congressional redistricting process that passed the Illinois General Assembly, cutting numerous Republicans off from their key constituencies, Durbin seemed resigned.

"This happens every 10 years," he said. "Ultimately, this map and every other map goes through the court."