DeKALB – Dan Kenney, founder and executive director of DeKalb County Community Gardens, will have a somewhat broader focus in his newest assignment as a member of a working group on the Illinois Commission to End Hunger.
“I think it’s good to think regionally when you’re talking about food insecurity,” Kenney said. “I care very much about the issue and am glad to help any way I can.”
The Emergency Food Working Group’s goal is to “explore and support public and private practices and partnerships that enhance and advance food security,” according to a news release. Kenney said he’s been doing that with the DeKalb County Community Gardens mobile pantry, the Grow Mobile.
Kenney’s mission will be to help bring food to so-called food deserts across Illinois. A food desert is defined by the Department of Agriculture and includes population, poverty rate and distance to grocery stores with a produce section as part of the metrics. Although there are designated food deserts in DeKalb County, such as the Annie Glidden North neighborhood, Kenney said, there are many others that might meet some of the guidelines but not all of them.
“When we took the Grow Mobile to Kirkland last year, we had 80 people come,” he said. He said more rural places such as Kingston, Kirkland and Somonauk would be food deserts if they had more people, or a higher low-income population. They meet the spirit of the term, if not the letter of the definition, he said.
The Commission to End Hunger was formed in 2010 with the goal to develop a plan to end hunger in Illinois. The emergency food systems working group that Kenney joined works to create systems to ensure that everyone in Illinois always has access to nutritious foods.
While Kenney began fighting food insecurity in DeKalb County, he said food security is a bigger issue in the southern counties of the state.
“We’ll be bringing fresh food to those food deserts,” he said.