In the News: Chicago Area Pantries see increased need
By Bernie Tafoya.
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(WBBM NEWSRADIO) — Chicago-area food pantries have seen an increase in need ever since emergency food stamp benefits, which were put in place during the pandemic, were cut at the end of February.
Man-Yee Lee, spokeswoman for the Greater Chicago Food Depository, said the rollback of SNAP benefits — commonly referred to as food stamps — to their pre-pandemic level was a “double-blow to families” still struggling with inflation.
Lee offered an example from one West Side pantry.
“They served 935 individuals last March,” Lee said. “This March that number tripled, jumping to more than 2,700 individuals. That’s the most drastic we’ve seen across our network.”
The Greater Chicago Food Depository works with more than 800 food pantries in the city and Cook County.
“In March, our network served more than 175,000 households,” Less said. “That was up 17% from the previous month.”
Lee urged Congress to keep SNAP benefits out of the discussion in ongoing debt limit negotiations.
Beyond Hunger operates a food pantry and food delivery program for people who live on Chicago’s West Side and in the near western suburbs. CEO Michele Zurakowski said 300 more people showed up to the food pantry in March than the 3,300 in February — right after SNAP pandemic bonus benefits were cut.
“We had a woman call us in March saying, ‘You know what, I think that I’ve got enough food, I don’t think I need to participate in this home delivery program,’” Zurakowski said. “And then she got her SNAP benefit reallocation, and she called us back and was like … ‘There’s no way I can afford this.’”
Zurakowski echoed Lee’s sentiment and said SNAP recipients are feeling the pinch of benefit cutbacks coupled with inflation.
“It’s just tough,” she said. “If you were getting $160 a month in SNAP support, and now you’re getting $38 a month, that money’s got to come from somewhere.”