It’s hard to make the Farm Bill sexy. It sounds bucolic and quaint — and far removed from our lives. But the lion’s share of its funding goes to nutritional programs for Americans with low incomes, mainly SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or “food stamps”). Here at Oak Park-River Forest Food Pantry, over half the people we serve also use SNAP benefits. Yet they still need to come to us because those benefits are not sufficient to their need. Now some in Congress want to slash SNAP. 

Cutting SNAP means cutting our country’s first line of defense against hunger — and charity can’t fill the gap. Over 40 million low-income Americans — 1.8 million in Illinois — are able to put food on the table with the help of SNAP. Eligibility is indexed to income and you can only buy food with it. No diapers. No toilet-paper. No soap. SNAP is the single most effective method of hunger relief we have. It provides 12 meals for every one meal provided by all the food banks, food pantries, and soup kitchens across the country.

Think about that. I know you are generous, but can you afford to give 12 times the amount you already do to charity? 

SNAP is designed to help two kinds of people: those who can’t protect themselves and those who need a helping hand to pull themselves up. More than 65% of SNAP recipients in Illinois are families with children, almost 30% are families with members who are elderly or have disabilities, and more than 43% already have jobs. And lest you think SNAP lulls people into dependency, do you know what the average length of stay on SNAP is? Nine months. 

Harmful changes to SNAP being proposed in the 2018 Farm Bill in the U.S. House of Representatives will cripple this vital lifeline. These changes would push large numbers of working families off SNAP, resulting in greater hunger and poverty. 

Please contact your local members of Congress today and urge them to vote against the proposed Farm Bill.

Michele Zurakowski

Executive director, OP-RF Food Pantry 

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