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A helping hand at Thanksgiving, and all year long

For many people around the country, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season. Many look forward to spending time with their loved ones and sharing their favorite dishes.

Unfortunately for many low-income older adults, the holidays can be a challenging time as they do not have the funds to purchase food for themselves.

At the Greater Chicago Food Depository – Chicago’s food bank – we work year round to meet the needs of our neighbors who every day have to make difficult choices between food and other necessities. Our mission is to “Provide food for hungry people while striving to end hunger in our community.”

As the Senior Manager of Public Benefits Outreach, my job is to help fulfill the second part of our mission by raising awareness about one of the most effective anti-hunger programs in the nation – the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). In addition, I focus on creating partnerships to reach vulnerable populations, and support my team as they enroll individuals in SNAP and other benefits.

Assisting individuals in filling out applications correctly and submitting their verification documents are the first steps in ensuring they get connected to benefits. Equally as important is providing follow-up case application support to those who need it.

Our Benefits Team works closely with the local Illinois Department of Human Services offices to resolve issues individuals may encounter throughout the process. The relationships we have built with staff and administrators throughout the county have helped resolve hundreds of cases. This keeps individuals from reapplying or spending hours at their local office trying to get their case resolved. One of the most critical services we provide is helping navigate the red tape that at times makes it difficult for eligible individuals to connect to benefits.

During this holiday season and every day of the year, the Food Depository will continue partnering with food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and programs throughout Chicago and Cook County to provide food to those in need. We will also continue to raise our voice to protect and strengthen programs like SNAP, so vulnerable populations can access the benefits they need to purchase healthy and nutritious food to feed themselves and their families.

As you gather with family and friends this Thanksgiving, consider how you can help the older adults in your community.

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About Claudia Rodriguez

Claudia Rodriguez is Manager of Public Benefits Outreach at the Greater Chicago Food Depository.