Saturday, April 11, 2009

Food security in Illinois

I thought this essay letter written for an assignment by one of my students was worth sharing here on the blog.  It's about the food stamps program, now called "SNAP".

Dear Senator [Name],

I am writing in regards to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly the federal Food Stamp Program. One of the primary goals of this program is to help put healthy foods on the tables of low income families. The change has given the program a new focus on extending benefits to as many families as possible by making the program more accessible to those in need. The average monthly household participation in Illinois alone was 595,832 for 2008! Only four states have a higher participation rate than Illinois: California, Florida, New York, and Texas. 

The number of Illinois households participating monthly in the Food Stamp Program has shown a significant increase of almost 30,000 households yearly since 2004. I believe this indicates to our community that the need for food assistance shows no signs of slowing down, especially in today’s unstable economic times. Job loss, homelessness, and hunger are on the rise.
These are all issues that can not be ignored that we must face together. Our current President, Mr. Barack Obama, has shown that he is committed to doing his share in helping SNAP during these rough times by recently putting into action a pilot program to help senior citizens, one of the hardest populations to reach that is served by SNAP, receive the benefits they qualify for. He also supports the recent additional nutrition provisions that were included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to temporarily increase the benefits and services that individuals and families receive through SNAP. This will greatly increase the food purchasing power of low income families during this American hardship.
Still, the United States Department of Agriculture, who oversees SNAP, only has a discretionary budget authority of $24.6 billion for 2009 compared to that of the Department of Defense’s roughly $650 billion budget for 2009. Remember, only a small portion of that $24.6 billion will go to SNAP, and many needy families with young children will inevitably still go hungry this year.
Hunger is defined as “the uneasy or painful sensation caused by lack of food; the recurrent and involuntary lack of access to food.” In Illinois during the years of 2004-2006, 3.5% of households experienced hunger on a regular basis. Food insecurity can be defined as “the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.” Some food insecure households are lucky enough to obtain enough food to avoid going hungry, but not all of them are as fortunate. Between 2004 and 2006, 9.8% of Illinois households experienced food insecurity. 
This is why I, along with the rest of our community, need your help. You have the power to educate within the political arena. This is such an important issue and immediate necessity. Don’t let a chance like this pass you by. Please help push for more spending for SNAP and related programs this year and in years to come because, together, we can make the difference these families so desperately wish for.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.

University of Illinois at Springfield
Social Work Program

If you're interested in more information, here are some web sites the student used or else that I'm recommending where you can learn more about food security policies in Illinois.

Illinois Department of Human Services description of LINK.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think this is a great idea and one that should be sent to the politicians who have the power to make changes and enact laws to better help the citizens of these needy communities. I know it would definitey help me as a 'hungry' student attempting to further my education to help someone else in need. Thanks for sharing!