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This Chicago Startup Is Easing the Headache of Applying for Food Stamps

In five minutes, mRelief helps users learn whether they qualify, and how to claim benefits.
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Reuters/Jim Young

Across America, there are 13 billion dollars in unclaimed food stamp benefits. This doesn’t mean that food insecurity is on the decline; instead, around 9 million people eligible for food stamps are not claiming their benefits, according to the latest data compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A Chicago-based startup, mRelief, is trying to change these numbers with a tech platform that starts with 10 simple questions.

The platform aims to cut through some of the tedious logistics of applying for assistance. They’re numerous. “In Illinois, food stamp applicants need to fill out an 18-page application or sit through a 90-minute phone call [with the Illinois Department of Human Services] and submit as many as 10 required documents,” explains the mRelief co-founder, Rose Afriyie. In other states, prospective applicants might spend hours at the public aid office. Afriyie and her team developed a platform built on web and text messaging that users can access via phone or computer, starting with a five-minute questionnaire that determines eligibility for benefits.