“This is the beginning of the hunger season for many families. We have to do everything we can to bolster summer feeding programs,” said U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky at a press conference hosted by the Illinois Hunger Coalition and MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger at Beth Emet Synagogue on June 20. The organizations partnered with Rep. Schakowsky, State Sen. Daniel Biss, State Rep. Laura Fine, and State Rep. Will Davis to host the press conference at MAZON’s “This is Hunger” national touring exhibit to urge the preservation of federal nutrition assistance programs such as SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which provides food stamps.
MAZON launched the 10-month public tour of “This Is Hunger” in November 2016 in Los Angeles. The first-of-its-kind, museum-quality mobile exhibit stopped in Glencoe from June 12-15 and in Evanston from June 16-20. The 53-foot-long expandable trailer opens to provide 1,000 square feet of interior space where visitors can sit at the table and meet, virtually, dozens of people in America who share their struggle to get enough to eat. Black-and-white video portraits projected at each end of the table raise awareness of the reality of hunger in America and empower participants to take action to fulfill MAZON’s mission to end hunger among people of all faiths and all backgrounds. Tour locations and free ticket reservations are available at thisishunger.org.
More than one in eight Americans, or 42.2 million people, including 13.1 million children, and 5.7 million seniors, struggle with hunger. The Illinois 9th Congressional District, which includes Evanston and Skokie, is representative of the nation as a whole, with one in eight residents needing food assistance, Rep. Schakowsky says. Figures on her website indicate that more than 27,000 children in the 9th District are food insecure. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as a lack of access, at all times, to enough food for an active, healthy life.
Although SNAP and other federal nutrition programs have proven effective in serving those who are affected by hunger, President Donald Trump’s federal budget proposal cuts of $193 billion from the SNAP program over 10 years by requiring states to assume 25% of the costs of the program. State Sen. Daniel Biss said that federal budget cuts will result in a nearly one-quarter reduction in the SNAP program, and almost one-half of recipients of SNAP program benefits are children. Statistics from MAZON show that the average SNAP benefits were just $132 per person per month, or $1.47 per meal in Illinois.
“We have a moral responsibility to enable everyone in Illinois to be able to eat, to be healthy, and for everyone to be food secure,” said State Sen. Biss. Illinois Hunger Coalition Community Organizing Coordinator and press conference co-host Cristine Pope said, “Reach out to your representatives in Congress and ask them to fight for the preservation of these [federal nutrition] programs.” Ms. Pope said the Illinois Hunger Coalition seeks to end hunger by addressing its underlying causes. More information is online at www.ilhunger.org.