Going Hungry In The Big Apple: Food Banks Struggle After SNAP Cuts

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Almost 41.2 million Americans live in food-insecure households. Of them, nearly 1.7 million New Yorkers receive SNAP benefits.

A new report by the Food Bank For New York City has revealed New York City food banks are struggling after federal authorities slashed food stamp benefits. According to the report, New York City’s food insecurity rate is 21 percent higher than the national rate and 19 percent higher than New York State’s rate.

Community-based emergency food providers such as soup kitchens and food pantries can no longer fill the void after federal government funding cuts for anti-hunger plans, the report says.

Almost 77 percent of food pantries and soup kitchens experienced a rise in the number of visitors in September 2017, as compared with September 2013, the Food Bank found.

More than half of pantries and kitchens, 56 percent, said at some point during the month, they ran out of food for adequate meals or pantry bags — up from 49 percent last year. Another 35 percent said they had to turn people away because they were short of food, while 46 percent of pantries said they had to limit the amount of food in the bags they give away because of shortages.

“What it looks like in human terms is lost meals. What it looks like is people not able to buy what they need from the grocery store, and in many cases having to go to a food pantry or a soup kitchen instead,” said Food Bank vice president and report author Triada Stampas.

The federal government reduced funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (known as SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) in 2013. The program helps low-income Americans. Earlier, the government had temporarily increased funding for the program to help Americans after the 2008 recession, and the increase was scheduled to end in 2013.

New Yorkers haven’t still been able to recover from the cuts.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, SNAP helps “families to bridge temporary periods of unemployment or family crisis.” Around 41.2 million Americans live in food-insecure households, and 1.7 million New Yorkers receive SNAP benefits

Food stamps critics believe the program is abused by fraudsters who benefit from the system funded by taxpayers. But research shows the federal program is actually good for the economy — for every dollar in SNAP spent, $1.70 is generated in economic activity.

The situation for New Yorkers may get worse with a new farm bill, which includes the budget for SNAP, expected to be introduced in Congress early in 2018.

President Donald Trump is proposing a $193 billion cut from SNAP. The 25 percent reduction would be achieved by restricting the type of people eligible for food stamps and requiring enrollees to work.

The program helps over 42 million Americans to put food on their tables. Almost 70 percent of the enrollees have small children and more than 25 percent have elderly or people with disabilities in their families.

Thumbnail/Banner: Reuters, Lucy Nicholson 

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