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New Study: Illinoisans Struggle to Feed their Families


Thursday, September 5, 2013   

CHICAGO - When it comes to making ends meet to feed Illinois families, a new study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has estimated that 13 percent of the state's households are either treading water or going under. That's up from just under 9 percent, 10 years ago.

Diane Doherty, executive director, Illinois Hunger Coalition, works with many of these families every day. She said she just helped a Social Security recipient, who had worked all of her life, finish her paper work for food stamps.

"She went three days without eating," Doherty said.

Because she had been told to take her medications with food, the woman hadn't taken her pills, either. If she had continued without food assistance, the woman could have wound up in the hospital, Doherty said, adding that with numbers like these, now is not the time to cut food stamps.

Jim Weill, president, Food Research and Action Center, pointed out that it's not just older people who are struggling.

"It's really an across-the-board problem," Weill said. "It's an issue for seniors, for working-age adults without kids, and particularly for families with children."

There's a pretty good chance that everyone knows someone who is struggling, he added. Half of all Americans during their working years have had to resort to food stamps at one time or another to get themselves through the hard times, he said.

Providing a few dollars a month in food assistance prevents a lot of other problems, Doherty noted.

"Whether we're looking at children or we're looking at seniors, the impact for health care expenses or for being unable to perform well in school or for special education, in the state of Illinois we're talking about millions of dollars," Doherty warned.

Some Republicans in Congress have wanted to cut around $40 billion from food stamps over 10 years - because taxpayers cannot afford the program, they said. Others disagreed, saying that doing nothing about hungry people is much more expensive. According to the Center for American Progress, failure to prevent hunger would cost taxpayers more than $167 billion a year.

The full USDA report is available at

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