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Hunger Beat

52 Stories, 52 Weeks: Reaching out in tough times

Susan Goodle, left, applies for SNAP with the help of AmeriCorps Member Kathy Wroblewska.
“I’m new to all of this,” 30-year-old Susan Goodle said as she glanced around a room full of giggling children, playing with brightly colored toys.

Susan was at a Greater Chicago Food Depository SNAP Outreach event at the CEDA WIC office in Oak Lawn. She was applying for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits for the first time.

“I’m struggling right now,” she said. “Over the past few months, I’ve been having a really hard time.”

Susan works about 16 hours per week as a Certified Nursing Assistant at a local hospital, but since her recent divorce, her income is barely enough to pay the rent and utility bills. She is also paying for college, studying full-time to get her nursing degree.

Susan knows she will need help buying food. Not only because of her debt, but also because she is pregnant.

“I need to make sure that my child is going to have enough to eat,” she said.

She has come to the right place. The Food Depository’s SNAP Outreach program helps clients connect with federal benefits by answering questions about SNAP and helping individuals fill out the 11-page application.

“SNAP Outreach is an integral part of the Food Depository’s mission,” said Graciela Rodriguez, SNAP Outreach Supervisor. “In Illinois, 20 percent of people eligible for SNAP aren’t enrolled. We want to make sure eligible individuals have the opportunity to benefit from the program.”

In fiscal year 2012-2013, the Food Depository’s SNAP Outreach team helped provide assistance to 3,282 households. This year’s goal is more than 4,000.

Back in Oak Lawn, Food Depository AmeriCorps Member Kathy Wroblewska determined that Susan was about $50 over the monthly gross income limit for a household of one, but they both decided it was a good idea to submit the application.

“When Susan’s baby is born, she will have a household of two and based on her income, she would be eligible at that time for SNAP benefits,” Kathy said.

Clients are normally notified about their SNAP application two months after submission. In the meantime, Susan received a list of Food Depository agencies in her area, to help make ends meet while she waits.

“I live check to check right now, but getting help applying for SNAP gives me a little more hope for my future, and for my baby’s future,” Susan said.

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