Food Stamp Surge In Illinois
Despite the fact that the economy is beginning to turn around, the number of Illinois households receiving food stamps hit record levels in December, and local food pantries have also revealed that more people are asking for help. Last month, 857,282 households were enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program--which is commonly known as food stamps--a figure that is up 12.7 percent from the previous year, according to the Illinois Department of Human Services via the Chicago Sun-Times.
The counties that showed the biggest increases in food stamps were Dupage, Kendall, Kane, and McHenry. "Since the fall of '08, we've had an increase practically every month" statewide, said Jan Freeman, director of the SNAP program in Illinois, to the Sun-Times. "We're not seeing it go down yet." The Greater Chicago Food Depository has also seen a 65 percent to 70 percent increase in individuals served since 2007. "More people turned to the pantries in our community in November than in any month in our 32-year history," said Kate Maehr, chief executive officer of the non-profit, to the Sun-Times.
To qualify for the SNAP program, the household income for a family of four cannot exceed $2,389, which would qualify them for a maximum benefit of $154 a week. Maehr noted to the Sun-Times that the average SNAP benefit in the state is about $25 a week for an individual. SNAP Director Freeman would not comment on whether or not she thought that food stamp numbers would continue to rise in Illinois this year, but she did explain to the Sun-Times that it will remain linked to the economy. "With unemployment and so forth, it's sort of an unknown," she said.