NYAPRS Note: As we travel around the state to address our community at regional forums, we notice common themes and statewide priorities. This fall, one unfortunate commonality that many of our community members share across the state is the cut to food stamps that will make it harder to access food. The $5 billion cut to SNAP benefits as of 11/01/2013 disproportionately effects individuals and families that already face systemic barriers due to disabilities. To learn more about food security in your area or to join other advocates in the fight to restore SNAP benefits, visit Hunger Action Network NYS.
Demand as much as Doubles at NY Food Pantries
Crain’s NY Business; Theresa Agovino, 11/27/13
Food pantries are serving up to double the amount of people they helped last year at this time. The surge follows the $5 billion cut in the federal Food Stamp program put in place on Nov. 1.
So far this month, 21,800 people have showed up at the pantry run by the River Fund in Queens. This is double the number of a year ago. Last Friday night, people started lining up in front of the pantry at 10 p.m., nine hours before its 7 a.m. Saturday opening just to be sure they would have food for Thanksgiving, said Swami Durga Das, executive director of the Fund.
"It's been shocking," said Mr. Das. "We are trying really hard not to turn anyone away."
Instead, he said that over the month he has limited the amount of food a family can take. Typically, a family of five receives four cans of vegetables or beans, but there have been occasions where there were only given two. "We want to make sure there is enough for everyone to get something."
There are roughly 1.9 million New Yorkers that receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP benefits. Before the cuts, the average monthly benefit received by a New Yorker was $154 a month, according to the Food Bank for New York City. Over the course of a year, the average recipient will lose $120 or nearly a month's worth of benefits.
All told, the cuts will result in a loss of 76 million meals in New York City—more than the Food Bank even distributes. What's worse, Congress is considering further cuts; the House of Representatives has already passed a bill slashing $39 billion from the SNAPS program.
The New York Common Pantry in Manhattan hasn't limited food but has bought more groceries to meet the increased need has already put it over its food budget, said executive director Stephen Grimaldi. The number of people that have come in for food has reached 4,500 so far this month, a 27% increase over last November.
Mr. Grimaldi said the pantry is already $32,000 over its food budget and expects that figure will grow to $150,000 by the end of its fiscal year in June. He estimates the budget will jump to $810,000 from $660,000.
"I was expecting a maximum of 15% increase," said Mr. Grimaldi. "I'm really going to have to raise more money."
Advocates for the poor and hungry said that the government must provide more funding because there is only so much that charities can accomplish.
"Food pantries are supposed to be the last stop for families not the first," said Margarette Purvis, president and CEO of the Food Bank.
She said pantries often help families get food stamps so they can go to the grocery store and pick what they'd like. However, she said the cuts mean that now those families are back at the pantries.
"The most depressing part is how people who were off the pantry lines are back on," said Ms. Purvis. "You want to give people the dignity of going to the grocery store like everyone else."
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