Friday, May 10, 2013

Lifting our voice: Lobby Day 2013


Anti-hunger advocates gather on the steps of the Illinois State Capitol on May 1, 2013.
Sometimes the fight to end hunger in Cook County requires us to climb the legislative food chain.
That’s what Springfield Lobby Day 2013 was all about.
More than 175 partners, volunteers and staff of the Greater Chicago Food Depository traveled to Springfield on May 1 to discuss ways to end hunger with our elected officials and to lobby for continued support of state and federal programs that help fight hunger.
Doug Schenkelberg is the Food Depository’s vice president of advocacy and outreach.
“All the lawmakers we met with said that they’re in agreement, that hunger is something we have to be fighting and there are way too many people facing food insecurity,” he said.
Government sources make up 62 percent of the nutrition safety net in Illinois.
That’s why Lobby Day is critical, Doug said.
“Government programs play a huge role in us being able to get good quality food out to people. Without that, there isn’t the ability for the private sector to make up that gap.”
This year, anti-hunger advocates with the Food Depository encouraged lawmakers to reject a $5 million cut that would reduce state reimbursements for the Free and Reduced School Breakfast and Lunch Program, and support a $12 million budget increase for the Older Adults Feeding Program.
During the 2011-2012 school year, schools received only 5 cents of additional reimbursement per meal from the state. A proposed FY 2014 budget plan would cut that tiny amount even further, slashing the total available reimbursement funding by 37 percent.
On a federal level, lawmakers have proposed a $20 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
“If SNAP is cut, there isn’t food there that can replace the system,” Doug said. “The system is already running at peak with the demand that’s out there.”
But there is certainly reason for optimism, because lawmakers are listening.
State Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) addresses Food Depository advocates.
“Lawmakers were empathetic with our positions and what we’re challenged to do," said Herman Carnie, the Food Depository’s Director of Food Acquisition, who made the trip for the first time. "I think it really helped them to see the number of green shirts that were there. I think it helped them to see that it wasn’t just one face asking them. It was a whole contingent of people passionate about what they’re doing,” he said.
Food Depository Executive Director and CEO Kate Maehr called Lobby Day, “one of the best days of my life.”
“I think there’s this incredible power in seeing people begin to take the opportunity to lift their own voices. We have to continue to push this forward,” she said.
To see more photos from Lobby Day, check out our Facebook page.

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