More Than Food
One of the most impactful – if least visible – programs offered at Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry is Social Services Connection. Tucked away in a cube down the hall from the Pantry, Amanda Kuhn, Social Services Coordinator, meets one-on-one with people seeking help applying for public benefits, such as SNAP, TANF, Medicaid, Medicare Savings, and Benefit Access. She also helps people obtain certain identification documents.
“The process can be so frustrating,” says Amanda. “They have to go to many different offices and stand in long lines. We can help with that.”
Since she started in spring of 2018, each month Amanda has helped about 65 families connect to over 100 services. A surprising number of people – about 30 per month – need help covering the cost of IDs, whose $20 cost can be prohibitive. Put in perspective, the average SNAP benefits per day are less than $4 – so a $20 cost can be equal to what people spend on 5 days of food.
An ID can be crucial, giving people access to services (including the Food Pantry) and proof of their identity. Here, if they need help getting an ID Amanda will not only help them get the necessary paperwork, but she can also provide a money order to cover the cost.
"The work is Fulfilling." Amanda says. "I really love distribution days, because I enjoy all of the client interactions. There is a contagious energy you can see in all of the volunteers, and I love the spirit of the Pantry. This is a special place."