CHICAGO — State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-Chicago 16th) is taking the SNAP Challenge this week to better understand the hardships faced by food stamp recipients. The SNAP Challenge, sponsored by the Greater Chicago Food Depository, invites elected officials, community leaders and others to spend only $35 on food for a week – the average weekly SNAP benefit for a single adult.
“I’m taking on this challenge to educate myself about the struggles poor families face when trying to put food on the table,” said Collins, a member of the Commission on the Elimination of Poverty. “With some members of Congress questioning the necessity of SNAP benefits, it’s important to draw attention to the barely adequate but still critical lifeline food stamps represent for the poor in Illinois.”
SNAP – the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called food stamps – provides benefits to more than 820,000 Cook County residents and 47 million people nationwide. The average individual SNAP recipient in Illinois receives just $35 each week to spend on food. SNAP Challenge participants are asked to eat only food they have purchased using the $35 available for the week, include food purchased at restaurants and avoid accepting free food.
“Every day, low-income individuals and families must make heart-wrenching decisions between buying food or medicine, or between paying the rent or paying a doctor’s bill,” Collins said. “It’s a privilege to stand with ‘the least of these,’ even in a small and symbolic way, and challenge the apathy that consigns them to the margins of our awareness.”
The Greater Chicago Food Depository, a network of 650 food pantries throughout the Chicago region, distributes food to 678,000 individuals each year while offering training programs that help break the cycle of poverty. The Food Depository estimates that in order to compensate for the five percent cut in SNAP benefits proposed by some members of Congress, its pantries would have to increase the amount of food they provide by 50 percent.