Durbin Meets with CEO of Greater Chicago Food Depository to Discuss Importance of Protecting Food Assistance for Millions of Working Families

Durbin joined 38 Senators in urging congressional Farm Bill negotiators to oppose drastic cuts to the food stamp program which would eliminate free school meals for 280,000 children nationwide

[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today met with the CEO of the Greater Chicago Food Depository, Kate Maehr, to discuss the importance of protecting funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as congressional negotiators begin to work on a compromise between two different versions of the Farm Bill as part of a House-Senate Conference Committee.  He is scheduled to speak with the Illinois Hunger Coalition about the same issue later this week.


This week, Durbin joined 38 of his Senate colleagues in urging the negotiators to prevent drastic cuts to the program which helps 2.1 million Illinoisans put food on the table for themselves and their families.  Last month, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would cut almost $40 billion from food assistance programs over 10 years and institute changes in eligibility that would cause 280,000 children nationwide to lose free school meals.  In contrast, this past June, the Senate passed a bipartisan five-year Farm Bill that would protect nutrition programs for families in need while saving $4.5 billion through reforms of the current the SNAP program. 


“More than 860,000 people in Cook County – 1 in 6 people – are food insecure meaning they are unsure of when they will receive their next meal,” said Durbin.  “Cutting almost $40 billion out of the food stamp program over the next ten years would mean denying basic food to children, to mothers with small children, to the elderly, and to the disabled.  We’re a better nation than that.  As we continue our economic recovery, a lot of hard-working families still need a helping hand. I hope members of the Conference Committee commit to ensuring this safety net that ensures our most basic human needs are met is not pulled out from under so many Americans.”


The Greater Chicago Food Depository, Chicago’s food bank, is a nonprofit food distribution and training center providing food for hungry people while striving to end hunger in our community. The Food Depository distributes donated and purchased food through a network of 650 pantries, soup kitchens and shelters to 678,000 adults and children in Cook County every year. Last year, the Food Depository distributed 66 million pounds of nonperishable food and fresh produce, dairy products and meat, the equivalent of 150,000 meals every day.


The letter was signed by U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Edward Markey (D-MA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Al Franken (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Mark Begich (D-AK), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA), Mark Udall (D-CO), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Carl Levin (D-MI), Chris Coons (D-DE), Angus King (I-ME), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Jon Tester (D-MT), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Tim Johnson (D-SD).


Text of today’s letter is below. 


Dear Farm Bill Conferees,


We are writing to express our support for preventing harmful cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the Farm Bill. SNAP is our nation’s first line of defense against hunger. SNAP provides essential nutrition benefits to working families, children, senior citizens, and disabled individuals in every state and town in our country. For every dollar in new SNAP benefits generates up to $1.79 in economic activity and approximately 16 cents goes back to the farmers.


While we support efforts to improve the integrity of the SNAP program, we encourage conferees to reject all SNAP eligibility changes designed to erect new barriers to participation, preventing millions of seniors, children and families from accessing food assistance.  The eligibility changes also will mean an additional 280,000 children would lose free school meals because children in SNAP households are automatically eligible for school meals. Changes would also increase administrative costs by requiring states to re-determine eligibility for SNAP, even if a household was deemed eligible for other state and/or federal assistance programs.


SNAP plays a critical role at a stressful time in the life of families. It allows struggling families to put groceries on their tables when they face financial troubles. Benefits average less than $1.50 per individual, per meal, and within this limited budget they struggle to provide healthy, nutritious meals for themselves and their family. In fact half of SNAP participants entering the program are enrolled for 10 months or less.


Researchers estimate that half of all American children will receive SNAP at some point during childhood, and half of all adults will do so at some point between the ages of 20 and 65 years.  Furthermore, SNAP recipients are diverse with regards to race-ethnicity, many have earned income, and the vast majority of SNAP households do not receive cash welfare benefits.


SNAP is a safety net program in the truest sense of the world; there is no other more fundamental human need than food. Please consider the needs of these struggling families, children, and senior citizens as you negotiate the final Farm Bill and the future of the SNAP program.