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Hunger Beat

52 Stories, 52 Weeks: Overcoming tough times

Maria Rodriguez receives food from the Alvernia Food Pantry in Elmwood Park.
Two years ago, Maria Rodriguez and her family ran into difficult times.

She and her husband had been working full-time and they were able to support their children. But, around the same time, the couple got sick and could no longer work.

“When that happened, it was really hard. It was rough,” she said.

Struggling to feed her family with just disability, Maria decided to apply for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. While the family was accepted into the program, the benefits quickly dropped from $92 per month, then to $72, because of her two daughters’ incomes.

“They’re paying our rent right now because we can’t work,” Maria said. “They take care of rent and my husband and I pay the bills, but everything is expensive, so it’s difficult.”

Because of a slight increase in income, the family’s SNAP benefits recently dropped to zero. That’s when Maria started coming to the Alvernia Food Pantry in Elmwood Park.

“I come to the pantry now because the kids need to be fed,” Maria said.

The pantry, one of the Greater Chicago Food Depository’s member agencies, serves nearly 100 families per month. On her most recent visit to the pantry, Maria received large boxes of shelf-stable items, plus two bags full of frozen meat.

“This stuff is what keeps us going,” she said. “It’s been a great help.”

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