The program is now called SNAP, and for the average individual the payout is about $30 a week. That works out to about $4.50 a day.
Store brand oatmeal, jam, peanut butter, lentils, soup, tuna fish and a handful of other groceries all add up to just under $30, the amount Kate Maehr is challenging herself to live on for a whole week.
"My big splurge was a loaf of bread that didn't have high fructose corn service and that set me back $3," said Maehr.
Maehr is the executive director of Greater Chicago Food Depository. As part of Hunger Action Month Maehr says close to 200 people are taking Feeding Illinois' SNAP Hunger Challenge.
"Thirty dollars is the average amount for somebody who gets SNAP benefits snap is the food SNAP program," said Maehr.
The challenge is to highlight how difficult it is for families in poverty to live on $30 a week especially trying to buy food that is both healthy and affordable.
"I really had to think how I was going to stretch that it was really hard to get fresh fruits and vegetables," said Maehr.
Maehr says by mid month many on food stamps run out of food and turn to food banks for help.
Census figures from 2009 show that one out of seven American adults live below the poverty line and one out of five children are in poverty.
Feeding Illinois is a statewide network of eight food banks. Director Tracy Smith says the bad economy has resulted in a new face of hunger.
"I hear stories about people coming to food pantries who gave to food pantries who gave to food pantries changing demographics," said Smith.
Food banks are seeing many more people who were middle class until they lost their jobs. The increased number of people who are turning to food banks has put an incredible amount of pressure on the Greater Chicago Food Depository. The non profit food distribution center says the demand is up while donations are down. And to get fruits and vegetables to food pantries, the group is having to food depository buy food.