Wednesday, April 25, 2012

SNAP applicants concerned about Farm Bill cuts

Food Depository SNAP Outreach Coordinator Jessica Fisher helping South Side resident Catalina apply for SNAP benefits

While Congress debates whether or not to protect the critical food and nutrition safety net programs in the Farm Bill in Washington, hundreds of miles away, an elderly woman named Catalina, sat down at a table in the front lobby of Chicago’s Southwest Regional Senior Center.  Across from her were two Greater Chicago Food Depository SNAP Outreach team members. 

Food Depository SNAP Outreach Coordinator Jessica Fisher and Adam McGriffin, Food Depository Older Adults Service coordinator, were at the senior center on South Kedzie this past Tuesday, helping clients fill out the online application for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits, formerly known as Food Stamps.  This is just one of the dozens of SNAP Outreach events the Food Depository holds throughout the city each week.

"Are they cutting food stamps?" Catalina asked Jessica after she sat down.  Catalina, who grew up on Chicago’s South Side, came to the senior center with her daughter Kathleen to apply for a Link card for the first time.  Catalina is concerned the benefits are going away.

“I am worried about her nutrition and about what she is eating” said Kathleen.  “Money is very tight.  My mom really needs this help.” 

“Applicants have started asking me about the possible SNAP cuts,” said Jessica.  “This is definitely on some of their minds.”

Hunger-relief programs, like SNAP, depend on the Farm Bill, the single largest source of federal funding for nutrition assistance programs, for financial support to provide millions of struggling Americans access to nutritious meals.  With the Farm Bill up for reauthorization next year, congressional committees are now drafting and debating their own versions of the Farm Bill.  Some of those versions call for drastic cuts to food and nutrition safety net programs, including limiting and potentially denying low-income people access to SNAP benefits.  People like Catalina. 

Last year, Food Depository SNAP Outreach staff and volunteers helped nearly 2,300 Cook County households apply for SNAP benefits.  Approximately 83 percent of those applications were approved, resulting in an average monthly benefit of $175 for those families. 

To ensure low-income individuals and families continue to receive much-needed food assistance, the Greater Chicago Food Depository is asking you to call your congressional leaders and tell them to protect anti-hunger programs, like SNAP, in the budget and the Farm Bill.

To learn more, please visit or contact the Advocacy and Public Policy team at 773-247-3663.

Friday, April 20, 2012

National Volunteer Week

Photo: Michelle Lytle Photography
Did you know this week is National Volunteer Week?

Established in 1974 by then President Richard Nixon, National Volunteer Week focuses on inspiring and encouraging individuals to be at the center of social change and engage their respective community organizations, like the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

The Food Depository has a long history of volunteerism and community support, starting at its very beginning, founded by a small group of volunteers back in 1979 in a Chicago warehouse.  Today, tens of thousands of generous and dedicated individuals donate their time to help promote the Food Depository's goal of ending hunger in Cook County, helping to distribute 69 million pounds of nonperishable food and fresh produce, dairy products and meat (the equivalent of 145,000 meals every day) last year alone.

Service in Numbers
  • 15,613: The number of individuals who've volunteered at the Greater Chicago Food Depository over the last nine months (not including multiple visits!)
  • 1,800: The hours of service donated by administrative volunteers in 2011.
  • 250,000: The pounds of corn harvested by 50 Food Depository volunteers last summer.
  • 720: The number of volunteers who participate in repack sessions each week.
  • 300:  The number of volunteers who helped at Food Shows last year.
  • 1,400:  The hours of service donated by 385 volunteers at the 2011 Hunger Walk.
  • 21: The number of years Volunteer of the Year, Julian Blumenthal, has been volunteering at the Food Depository.

The Greater Chicago Food Depository offers multiple volunteer opportunities for you, your family or your company to get involved and give back in the Food Depository's campaign to provide food for hungry people while striving to end hunger in our community.

For more information about volunteer and service opportunities, check out the Greater Chicago Food Depository's Volunteer Page.