As several families begin to prepare holiday spreads, one Chicago area food pantry is bracing for a families that need help with their Thanksgiving meals this year.
Mother Jones Food Pantry is hosting its annual turkey giveaway Tuesday afternoon, but they're worried they might not have enough to serve the increasing number of families in need this year.
“Just recently, the government has cut the food stamp budget – in Illinois over $40 million,” said Pastor Virgil Jones. “With that being said, it’s harder to make meals to eat to feed the family now. Right at Thanksgiving time so many families are not going to be able to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner as many will this holiday season so we are trying to do as much as we can to soften the impact.”
The change came as Congress began negotiating additional cuts to the program, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
"It is hard for members of Congress, in the House and the Senate -- it's hard for me too -- to really appreciate the lifestyle of someone living paycheck to paycheck," Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin said. "But that's a reality for millions of Americans. Many of the people who are receiving food stamps are working. That may come as a shock to people. They're not making enough money to feed their family."
Durbin has been an advocate of the SNAP program, even visiting a new pantry Tuesday for veterans in Chicago known as the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center.
Gov. Pat Quinn also made a push Tuesday to encourage food donations during the holiday season.
Quinn volunteered at the Greater Chicago Food Depository to “encourage people across Illinois to support their local food bank this holiday season and throughout the year.”
““It is harder this year than last year because food stamp benefits that have helped feed their children have been cut back in Washington.” Quinn said. "I feel that the cutbacks in food stamps was very short-sided and needs to be reversed... It's all about alleviating poverty."
Mother Jones Food Pantry hopes to give out at least 300 turkeys this year, but Jones noted they have over 500 families that need turkeys.
“There is somebody right in the city of Chicago, right next door to you, that doesn’t have food to eat and if we can reach out and help, a little bit goes a long way,” he said.
Jones said the pantry has received more calls this year than ever before of people needing food.
And the Greater Chicago Food Depository also said they're seeing a surge of families needing extra help.
"The need this year is at an all time high," said Greater Chicago Food Depository CEO Kate Maehr. "One in six people don't know where they are going to get their next meal. The challenge is, you don't walk down the street and immediately know who the hungry person is. It might be your neighbor, it might be a child in your child's classroom, but its one in six people here in cook county."
Jones said those looking to help the pantry can visit their website or drop off donations between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at the pantry, 711 W. 120th Street.
The pantry is scheduled to serve two meals Tuesday afternoon, one at 2 p.m. and another at 4 p.m., and will hold the turkey giveaway after.
“We only have two days left until Thanksgiving,” Jones said. “We need all the help we can get.”
For more on how to help food banks across the state visit FeedingIllinois.org.