Advocates encouraged policies that connect more people to the food they need to live healthy lives.

In fiscal year 2017-2018, our advocacy voice was loud and we were heard. With the help of our community, the Food Depository and its partners scored tremendous wins on several major policy issues.

First, the new Breakfast After the Bell program was implemented starting with the 2017 – 2018 school year. Food Depository advocates encouraged lawmakers to support the measure in 2016, which made breakfast a part of the school day in low-income schools.

The change made an immediate impact throughout Cook County – including at schools like Lincoln Middle School in Berwyn.

“When we were offering breakfast before school started, we had maybe 50 students participating every day. With Breakfast After the Bell, there are more than 500 students eating the meal daily.”

Principal Michelle Smith, Lincoln Middle School

Lincoln is just one of hundreds of schools across the state that is implementing Breakfast After the Bell. Overall, more than 175,000 students are expected to gain access to breakfast because of the legislation.

Breakfast After the Bell wasn’t the only state-level advocacy success in fiscal year 2017-2018.

After organizing a postcard campaign and encouraging advocates to call their lawmakers, we successfully secured a waiver of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) time limit for calendar year 2018. The waiver protects access to SNAP benefits for more than 260,000 Illinoisans by waiving a federal requirement that would result in some of our most vulnerable neighbors only being able to receive benefits for three months in a three-year period.

During our annual Lobby Day in Springfield, more than 200 advocates asked lawmakers to support bills that would:

  • Extend SNAP benefits to certain college students,
  • Expand access to fresh produce at farmer’s markets for SNAP users
  • Enable Illinois taxpayers to support food banks when they file individual income tax forms.

Those bills – the College Students Hunger Relief bill, Healthy Local Food Incentives Fund and Hunger Relief Tax Check-Off – were all subsequently signed into law.

And lastly, in March we took a group of nearly 30 advocates from Food Depository partner agencies to Washington, D.C. for the National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference. Advocates learned from their nationwide colleagues at the conference and then visited with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, asking them to support SNAP.

Together, our advocacy voice was strong in fiscal year 2017-2018. Because of your support, we were able to encourage policies that help provide food and hope for our neighbors struggling with hunger. To learn more about our advocacy efforts or get involved, visit chicagosfoodbank.org/advocacy.