Michelle Allen isn’t sure how she’s going to feed her children next month when cuts to the nation’s food stamp program go into effect.
Allen lives on the South Side of Chicago and has received benefits for nine years. She has become more dependent on the benefits after recently being laid off of her job of 10 years, she said.
“I wouldn’t be able to feed my kids,” said Allen, who is 38. “If they cut my benefits, I’m totally relying on someone else.”
More than one-million Cook County residents depend on food stamps, now called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and would be affected by a $40 billion cut in benefits over the next decade.
Last month, the U.S House approved the cuts in SNAP benefits, passing the Farm Bill without food stamp benefits.
According to American Farmland Trust, Farm Bills were initially used during the Great Depression to support farmers and ranchers. For more than 40 years, the measure has also funded SNAP programs. About 80 percent of the bills spending went towards nutrition programs. The measure is reauthorized every five years.
Under the latest draft of the Farm Bill, eligibility for SNAP benefits would be tightened and waivers will be eliminated for unemployed and childless adults. The measure would also eliminate lottery winners from receiving benefits.
Tamika Williams, 29 waited for service in the Department of Human Services office downtown. Williams said a reduction in SNAP benefits wouldn’t affect her as much as it would affect others. She said she has other resources, but would have to adjust to the changes.
“It doesn’t matter,” Williams said “They’re going do what they want regardless and you have to learn to adapt.”
While leaving the DHS office on Wabash, Rachel Solano, 28 said there was a time when only low-income families relied on benefits, but with the conditions of the economy more people depend on it.
“ Hunger in our community is often an invisible problem,” said Karen Maehr, executive director of the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
Maehr said one out six residents struggle to put food on their tables. She said the depository aims to go out of business by ending hunger in the communities. Maehr said the depository has served 70 percent more residents than the past five years.
The Greater Chicago Food Depository has a SNAP Outreach Program that goes out to its 650 sites that distribute food to get and help people submit SNAP applications. The SNAP Outreach Program provides computers and in-person assistance for filling out the SNAP benefit applications.
Paul Morello, a public relations coordinator for the Greater Chicago Food Depository, said that the SNAP program influences the organizations efforts to end hunger in the Chicago area.
[pullquote]“Regardless of what happens, there will likely be SNAP cuts and any cut to SNAP would be a huge detriment to the nutrition safety net in, not only in Cook County, but across the country,” said Morello.[/pullquote]
Starting on Nov. 1 a single household will lose $11 dollars in monthly benefits, a two person household will lose $20 dollars and a household with four people will lose $36 dollars a month.
Morello said $10 dollars a month may seem like a small amount, but that’s still 10 dollars worth of food people can’t get anymore.
But on a larger scale a household of one will be losing a minimum of a $132 dollars or a family of four will lose $432 dollars a year.
Many organizations recognize that SNAP benefits are already miniscule and that any cuts to them will make matters worse for low-income families.
Laura Honsy, senior manager of communications for Share Our Strength, said Share Our Strength is trying to protect SNAP by raising awareness of the upcoming November cuts to SNAP recipients, educating members of Congress and their staff on the importance of nutrition education and coordinating with other national anti-hunger organizations.