Food stamps deadline puts pressure on Cook Co. churches, food banks

November 1, 2013 (CHICAGO)

Four hundred families come to the North Park Friendship Center each month. Most come for the food pantry.

"They've had a job loss a home foreclosure a medical crisis, so people who have never had need for a food pantry are in need of that," said Joey Ekberg, North Park Friendship Center.

There has been a steady increase in people who need help. And the Center's executive director fears a recent change in federal benefits will cause more hardship.

"If food insecurity was a myth I'd be out of work. And I would love to be out of work. I wish it were a myth but it's not," Ekberg said.

In 2009 those receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP for short, or commonly referred to as food stamps got a financial boost.

That boost has rolled back, impacting two million in Illinois.

A temporary increase from 2009 has expired. An average family of four will receive $36 less a month.

Churches and non-profits say they are preparing to step up to help.

"There are many people who receive snap benefits who are not able to get jobs either because they are children, older adults or people with disabilities," said Kate Maehr, Greater Chicago Food Depository.

Six hundred fifty facilities depend on items from the Greater Chicago Food Depository which has had 70 percent more demand in the last five years.

Cuts to federal benefits come as household expenses typically go up with more utilities costs in winter.

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