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Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011 03:21 pm

New restrictions possible for public food aid

Demand growing as state considers new controls

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Krystal Taylor of Springfield doesn’t worry about not having enough to eat. She knows everything will be OK.

Taylor, 35, has received Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits through the Illinois Link card on and off for the past 18 years. Taylor has seen many changes with the program over the years, and now more changes could be in the works.

The General Assembly will introduce House Bill 10 on Feb. 12 that aims to tighten how she and others using the Link card are allowed to buy food.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Sacia, a Freeport Republican, would insist that a Link card include a photograph identification. Also, the bill would give facility providers, caregivers and guardians the capacity to use a Link card on behalf of a beneficiary. For individuals like Taylor, the guidelines have never been a problem, and she says that the new legislation would not affect her very much.

The $112 a month Taylor receives she says goes to buy packages of meat for her and her two teenage daughters, which she supplements with side dishes that she can buy at Dollar Tree. She understands that some abuse the system, but for her, “A box of potatoes, a can of corn and we got ourselves a meal.”

When asked how she could make it without SNAP, she says, “It’d be rough.” Taylor is a full-time mother and assistant manager at Dollar Tree on the corner of North Grand East and North 5th Street. She says that some food pantries do not allow individuals access to food more than once a week which would not be enough to provide for her family.

For individuals like eighteen-year-old Jessica Gillenwater of Springfield, whose family receives SNAP benefits through the Link card, the new legislation, if enacted, could hold some weight.

Gillenwater, who has plans to go to college this summer, says while it was a struggle to get assistance from SNAP when her mother was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis three years ago, her family now receives enough to get by.

“With my mom not having a job and me only being a waitress, it’s paying the bills right now,” she says.

The Illinois Department of Human Services Bureau of Research and Analysis recently announced a jump in the number of Sangamon County households receiving SNAP aid.

The report shows 26,900 Sangamon County households received aid for food in December 2010, as opposed to 28,707 households in November 2010. The nearly 900 person jump in household need comes as no surprise to area agencies like Central Illinois Food Bank in Springfield.

Fifty-eight percent of individuals who receive food from the Central Illinois Food Bank already receive SNAP benefits, says John Bannon, communications manager.

“We’ve certainly seen increases in requests for food assistance,” he says.

He says he is working on facilitating individuals who may be afraid to ask for help and encourages those that qualify to apply.    Bannon hopes to add eligible individuals and families to the program. Food banks across the state are increasing distribution and are moving as quickly they can to meet community needs, he says.

The Central Illinois Food Bank distributed 4.6 billion pounds of food during fiscal year 2009 and 6.4 pounds of food in fiscal year 2010. Bannon expects to need 8 million pounds of food in the coming year.

For more information, visit dhs.state.il.us. and ilga.gov.

Contact Holly Dillemuth at hdillemuth@illinoistimes.com.
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