Across the country, that's nearly 47 million people. In Illinois, 14 percent of our residents rely on federal assistance for food.
September is Hunger Action month. So, all this week, ABC7 Chicago brings you a special series called the SNAP Challenge. SNAP, which stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is the new name for the food stamps program. The challenge is to see what it's like to feed yourself using the same amount a SNAP recipient gets.
Saving money on groceries is one thing, but imagine shopping on a budget of $35 for a whole week's worth of food! That's the average benefit for one person, one week, on food stamps.
So, we decided to take on the challenge, not just to see if we can buy enough food, but see if we can buy some healthy food for the week -- with the help of registered dietician Kim Kirchherr, who works for the National Dairy Council.
Kim has been on the morning show many times, but we're now on a $35 budget, pretty tight?
"Tight, but it can be done. Every time I come in i do it on a budget for you guys, just tightening it up that much this time," said Kirchherr.
Kim starts her shopping trip with some key strategies.
"Really shopping for the nutrition, you need first, to think of every food group, fruits, vegetables, dairy, protein, grains, making sure you have a strategy everyday of getting the nutrient that you need," she said.
It may sound complicated, but Kim says a little planning goes a long way.
"So, we're gonna pick the right recipes, look at sales ahead of time," said Kim. "Canned beans are great, economical. Grab some beans."
"This is one of the tricks, look at the whole grain sign, and it's buy one get one free," she said. "Milk is great to have on hand. Eggs. One of the things I'm thinking of making is veggie quiche."
Also on Kim's list of budget-friendly and nutritious items: oatmeal and frozen veggies.
"Let's say you live far from stores, buy those things. Always have those healthy choices on hand," said Kim.
With the grand total, Kim actually went over by just a bit: $38.06. Thirty-five dollars is what a typical person gets on food stamps for one week. Of course, the program is meant to be supplemental. So, some recipients might have income from elsewhere. Many are unemployed and looking for jobs, but one-third of recipients simply don't make enough to make ends meet.
The SNAP Challenge is to see if Kim can manage seven days-worth of meals on what she bought.
She has started, and ABC7 Chicago will be checking in with her throughout the week.
For more information: www.chicagosfoodbank.org/site/PageNavigator/SNAPChallenge.html
More useful tools are being posted on Judy Hsu's Facebook page to help you with budgeting your groceries and planning it out so you can stick to your budget.
(RELEASE) The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as Food Stamps, is a vital piece of the federal food and nutrition safety net, aiming to alleviate hunger by providing a means for lowincome households to purchase food. There are nearly 47 million people across the country participating in SNAP, and in Cook County more than 820,000 individuals depend on SNAP to help put food on the table each month. In Illinois, people know SNAP from the blue Illinois LINK EBT cards. The SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge, taking place this September during Hunger Action Month, gives participants a view of what life can be like for thousands of low-income Chicagoans. Most participants take the Challenge for one week, living on $35 worth of food—the average Food Stamp benefit for an individual in Illinois. Challenge participants are forced to make food shopping choices on a limited budget, and often realize how difficult it is to avoid hunger, afford nutritious foods, and stay healthy with too few resources.