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    Since 2020, the hunger crisis in Illinois has worsened, resulting in the routine exhaustion of federal funding by Illinois food banks before the end of each year. The budgetary deficits are usually unmet by private donations and federal grants. Illinois food banks are forced to ration their food supplies to pantries, reducing available food to the hungry in our state. 

    As one of the top growers of commercial corn and soybeans, Illinois farmers are among the most productive agricultural growers in the world. Most of our farmland (75% of our state’s total land area) is healthy, producing plentiful commodity yields generating over $20 billion a year.  However, rising input costs limit profit margins for typical Illinois farmers, and it becomes difficult for farmers to donate any of their yield to the hungry. Illinois should improve our food donation system by incentivizing our farmers to donate a small portion of their crops to the hungry.  We can use economics, common sense and public policy to tackle this crisis.

    In my Sun-Times letter to the editor published on March 20, 2023, I advocated to pass legislation to help farmers and food banks do more to fight hunger.

    Currently, the 103rd Illinois General Assembly is considering a budgetary line item from a bill I wrote, the Illinois Farmers Who Fight Hunger Act (SB1627) with Bipartisan Chief Sponsorship by Democratic Senator Dave Koehler (IL-46) and Republican Senator Dale Fowler (IL-59). This Act incentivizes Illinois farmers through tax credits (up to $2,000) to donate yield or equivalent cash to the Illinois food banks under Feeding Illinois and/or historically underserved farmers. This program would generate essential food and revenue to Illinois food banks and help feed the hungry. In addition, it would allow Illinois farmers a better opportunity to continue to contribute to their local economies.

    If 10% of Illinois farmers maximize this tax credit directly to Illinois food banks,  almost $20,000,000 of additional annual revenue will be generated, equivalent to ONE HUNDRED MILLION annual meals to hungry Illinoisians.

    Now is this time to enlist farmers to take a bigger role to combat food insecurity.

    Dr. Dave Nayak is Founder of Nayak Farms in Gardner, Illinois. Nayak Farms grew, harvested, packaged and delivered farm produce to food banks distributing to thousands of food pantries and soup kitchens across Illinois. This year’s goal is to feed more than 250,000 Illinoisans suffering from hunger. Dr. Dave Nayak is also a Board-certified Allergy-Immunology physician and Founder of Strength to Love Foundation (STL) in Chicago, Illinois, where he also is the Attending Physician at STL Asthma & Allergy Free Clinic.  Dr. Nayak has written and helped pass legislation in the Illinois General Assembly pertaining to gun violence and hunger.

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