Friday, June 21, 2013

US House rejects SNAP cuts

The Greater Chicago Food Depository's SNAP Outreach team helped 3,037 clients apply for SNAP benefits in Fiscal Year 2011-12.
By Doug Schenkelberg

The US House of Representatives voted June 20 to reject the proposed $20.5 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by voting against the Farm Bill. As we laid out earlier this week, the Farm Bill, which sets federal policy for both agriculture and food and nutrition programs, was advancing to the floor of the House with several policy changes that would reduce benefits for thousands of food insecure households in Cook County. During the floor debate on the bill, several other amendments were added that would have further cut SNAP and other important food and nutrition programs.

Greater Chicago Food Depository advocates made a difference. All Cook County members of Congress voted to reject the cuts to SNAP and protect families facing food insecurity. They heard from their constituents that fighting hunger is important to them and they listened.

It is unclear at this time what the next steps for the Farm Bill will be. The current extension of the 2008 Farm Bill goes until September 30. Congress could choose to extend the 2008 Farm Bill again as they restart the process of writing a new Farm Bill, or they could regroup quickly and attempt to get a new bill completed before the deadline. We expect that the threat to critical nutrition programs has not gone away. We will continue to monitor these issues and work together to end hunger in our community.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

How could the Farm Bill affect SNAP?

The Farm Bill threatens to cut up to $20.5 billion from SNAP. (Photo By Charlie Westerman/Greater Chicago Food Depository)
By Doug Schenkelberg, Greater Chicago Food Depository Vice President of Advocacy and Outreach

Right now, Congress is debating the Farm Bill, a piece of legislation that is critical to how our nation addresses the needs of families facing hunger. The Farm Bill is a federal act that sets policy and funding for two different areas. The first is agriculture. The second is the food and nutrition safety net. These two areas have been paired together since the creation of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP – formerly known as food stamps) was created in the 1960’s. As of 2011, there were more than 913,000 SNAP users in Cook County.

The House of Representatives’ version of the Farm Bill contains a steep cut to SNAP - $20.5 billion over 10 years. Their version eliminates a provision of SNAP referred to as “Categorical Eligibility.” Broadly speaking, this provision reduces red tape and simplifies access to needed programs for households facing food insecurity. In total, the reductions proposed in the House Farm Bill would cut 2 million individuals from the program nationally. The Senate's version of the bill includes $4.5 billion in SNAP cuts over 10 years.

The House of Representatives will start debating its version of the Farm Bill this week. Over 200 potential amendments have been filed that would change the bill, including amendments that would either increase or decrease the cuts to SNAP.

The Greater Chicago Food Depository opposes the proposed cuts to SNAP. Food banks and our partners in the community do not have the resources to fill in the gap that would be created by a weakening of the federal food and nutrition safety net. There are 860,670 people in Cook County who are food insecure, meaning they don't know where their next meal will come from. We have seen a 77 percent increase in pantry visits since 2008 and have unfortunately seen no signs of that demand waning. Cuts to SNAP would only create greater hardship to families in need.

Your member of Congress needs to hear from you that they should not support a Farm Bill with cuts to SNAP. Please call today. Make your voice heard!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Food insecurity on the rise

Food insecurity continues to reach record highs.

Data released by Feeding America on June 10, 2013 shows a significant increase in the number of food insecure people in Cook County. According to the 2011 data, 860,670 people are unsure where their next meal will come from.

That’s up more than 50,000 individuals from previous data. 

“Hunger is persistent in our community. For hundreds of thousands of our neighbors, finding food is a daily struggle,” said Kate Maehr, Greater Chicago Food Depository Executive Director and CEO. “As economists and policy makers point to signs of recovery, this new data is a humbling reminder of just how difficult times are for many people in Cook County.”

The new data, from Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap 2013 study, represents an increase of about 6.5 percent from 2010. Previously, there were 807,000 food insecure individuals in the county. It also shows there were 262,240 food insecure children in Cook County.

Food insecurity is defined as a lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods.

It might be difficult to comprehend a number as large as 860,670. But when broken down, it means 1 in 6 of our neighbors are food insecure. One of those individuals is 42-year-old William Barnett.

After being laid off from his job as a truck driver, he is now awaiting hernia surgery and cannot work. He receives $300 per month in Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. He must try to support his wife, who also can’t work, and his two daughters.

To make ends meet, he supplements the food he buys on his Link card with food from the Union Avenue UMC Food Pantry in Canaryville, a Greater Chicago Food Depository agency.

On a recent Wednesday morning, he waited in line to pick out fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and canned goods. There were about 20 people in line, but he knows there could be many more.

“A lot of families have too much pride to come here,” he said.

In the face of increasing need, the Food Depository distributed 64 million pounds of food last year to people just like William Barnett through its network of 650 programs, including more than 400 pantries, soup kitchens and shelters.

The Food Depository is working to end hunger in our community, but we cannot do this alone. Please consider a donation, volunteering or advocating on behalf of the 1 in 6 of our neighbors who do not know where their next meal will come from.