As Katniss, Peeta and the other tributes battle it out on the big screen today for the premiere of the Hunger Games, we’re reminded that issues of poverty, food insecurity and hunger aren’t just post-apocalyptic fictions, warning us of the future. These are very real issues that hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans must face each and every day.

Studies conducted by the Greater Chicago Food Depository estimate that over 777,000 individuals in Cook County live in poverty. As a result, many people skip meals or cut back on the quality or quantity of food they purchase for themselves and their families. Many families also have to make the difficult choice of choosing to buy food or pay for housing or medicine.

The GCFD Running on Empty report followed the nutritional habits of nearly 500 Cook County students over the course of 24 hours. According to their findings, 45% of the children missed a meal within that 24 hour period and less than 0.7% received the recommended daily allowance for all five food groups.

A study by Feeding America done in February 2010 took a look at food insecurity in America. It found that 30% of client households with seniors indicated that they have had to choose between food and medical care and 35% had to choose  between food and paying for heat/utilities.  The same study also found that 3.6 million older Americans live below the poverty level and 1.3 million were deemed food insecure.

Access to proper nutrition should not be a battle.

By working with a wide variety of community partners, we are fighting hunger across Chicago. Our volunteers serve meals, sort and repackage donated food, use local food pantries to ‘shop’ for healthy groceries for people living with HIV/AIDS and tend the community gardens that grow organic, sustainable produce for people in need. When you volunteer at a hunger program, you make a real difference in the lives of men, women, children and seniors across Chicago.

So as you’re enjoying your popcorn, getting ready to be transported to Panem, please don’t forget the very real battle that hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans are facing every single day. Make time to volunteer at a hunger program, and may the odds be eternally in your favor.