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BANK ON IT: Food Bank For New York City's Blog


Good News for New Yorkers

by Chris Bean

As an emergency food provider in the Bronx, Part of the Solution (POTS) was dreading the impact of the SNAP reductions in the Farm Bill. The individuals and families we serve were already struggling from the 2013 cuts, and another round would be devastating to sustain. It's nearly impossible for low-income families to maintain healthy eating practices without food stamps. We are so thankful that Governor Cuomo recently stepped in to ensure that struggling New Yorkers won't find their cupboards bare and their plates empty.

By preserving $457 million in SNAP benefits, the Governor has negated the second-wave of SNAP reductions and helped to ensure that low-income New Yorkers, including children, veterans and senior citizens, receive the essential nutrition assistance they need to maintain healthful lives. When our struggling families don't have to worry about putting food on the table they are relieved of an immense burden and are better able to focus on their education, health, employment and other areas of critical importance.

We are so thankful that our mission of treating low-income people with dignity and respect is being reflected in our state government. Governor Cuomo has garnered state resources and allocated them to those who are, arguably, least capable of shouldering the burden of federal cuts. We at POTS could not be more appreciative of his support.

Chris Bean is the Executive Director of Part of the Solution (POTS) in the Bronx, a member of Food Bank For New York City's network.

Governor Cuomo Taps Food Bank to Helm Anti-Hunger Task Force


By Alyssa Herman

For 30 years, Food Bank's mission has been to end hunger in our great city. But we can't accomplish this Herculean feat alone. This work requires the collaboration of many partners--an approach that Food Bank has long embraced. Over the course of the past three decades a long list of partners and supporters have joined us in helping struggling New Yorkers keep food on the table.

Now our governor, Andrew Cuomo, is using the same strategy with the creation of the New York State Anti-Hunger Task Force, which brings experts, officials and advocates to the same table. His reasoning is powerfully simple: We can do more by working together than we can by working individually. Collaboration of this type, he explained, "can enhance the effectiveness of our fight against hunger by better coordinating the significant public and private resources already dedicated to this important issue."

Governor Cuomo is making sure that Food Bank For New York City has a seat--and a leading voice--at the table by appointing our President and CEO, Margarette Purvis, to Chair the Task Force.

The launch of the Task Force couldn't come at a more critical time: 2.5 million New Yorkers are having a hard time affording food for themselves and their families, and 1 in 5 children in New York City rely on emergency food providers to eat. It is appalling that a city of such wealth has so many people living in poverty, struggling to afford a basic necessity of life.

As Margarette put it when the announcement of her appointment was made, "Since the Great Recession, hunger has reached unprecedented levels in our state and city. Recent cuts to the vital food resources that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) provides low-income New Yorkers make this a time of particularly urgent need. In fact, nearly 1 in 4 New Yorkers who are eligible for food stamps do not receive them. The creation of the Task Force will serve to strengthen New York's response to hunger and bolster our safety net."

I couldn't agree more. Ending hunger means much more than simply providing emergency food to people in need. It also means finding ways to shore up the resources that help keep people off food lines in the first place. It means developing income-based strategies that will help lift people out of poverty. The Task Force will tackle these issues and more as it works to achieve three specific goals: maximize Federal funds for the state's anti-hunger efforts by increasing participation in SNAP and universal school meals; increase outreach through innovative and strategic public/private partnerships; and better leverage New York farms to improve access to healthy food, create jobs and stimulate the local economy.

A broad array of experts will join Margarette in this undertaking, including anti-hunger advocates, service providers, hunger and nutrition experts, representatives of the agriculture industry, local government and education officials, representatives of the nonprofit and private sectors, and members of Governor Cuomo's cabinet. I'm confident that by working together, Margarette and these leaders will come up with viable solutions to help alleviate hunger in our city and our state.

For more details about the launch of the Anti-Hunger Task Force, please click here.

Alyssa Herman is the Chief Development Officer at Food Bank For New York City.


Fiscal Cliff Deal a Mixed Bag: More for Low-Income Families, Less for Nutrition Education

by Triada Stampas

The "Fiscal Cliff" deal struck by Congress at the start of 2013 made a number of changes to the tax code – many of them beneficial for residents with low household income, especially low-income families. With Food Bank research finding 70 percent of low-income families in New York City struggling to afford food, this comes as positive news for the New Year. Regrettably, alongside these gains, Congress enacted immediate and dramatic funding cuts to nutrition education programming for these same families, including our own CookShop and Just Say Yes to Fruits and Vegetables programs. Significantly, the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA), as it was called, extended several important provisions that were set to expire, including expansions of the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, a higher credit rate for the Dependent Care Tax Credit, as well as the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which helps families pay for college. In addition, ATRA prevented an increase in taxes from kicking in for individuals earning less than $400,000 (and married couples filing jointly earning less than $450,000). Although some of these gains may be offset by the two-point increase in the payroll tax deduction, combined, these changes mean low-income tax filers will not see their tax rates increase or their available tax credits drop. In a surprise move, however, Congress decided to make an immediate 48 percent cut to this year's remaining funding for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-Ed) – a loss of more than $4.8 million for New York State's nutrition education programs that provide SNAP (food stamp)-eligible New Yorkers with the knowledge, resources and skills to make healthy food choices on a limited budget. While Food Bank will make every effort to minimize the impact of this loss on the more than 100,000 New Yorkers our nutrition education programs reach, a mid-year funding cut of this magnitude can't help but be felt. Worse yet, if Congress does not act, more cuts are on the horizon: WIC (the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) is scheduled for an eight percent cut on March 1, and SNAP benefits (food stamps) are threatened in the ongoing Farm Bill negotiations. If these benefits are slashed, more New Yorkers struggling to keep food on the table will be forced to turn to our city's already overwhelmed food pantries and soup kitchens. Your advocacy can help. Please contact your Representatives today and tell them to restore SNAP-Ed funding in the next fiscal cliff deal, and protect WIC and SNAP from cuts!

Triada Stampas is Senior Director of Government Relations at Food Bank For New York City

11 Million Emergency Meals Already Lost Due to Federal Cuts!

Help Save Critical Food Assistance In NYC

by Triada Stampas

Federal spending cuts have slashed the single biggest source of emergency food in New York City. This year alone, food pantries and soup kitchens across the five boroughs lost a staggering 11 million meals, depriving those residents in most desperate need. The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) has been the mainstay of New York City’s emergency food network, constituting nearly half of the food that is distributed to low-income New Yorkers in past years. Food pantries and soup kitchens have told us they used to plan their meals around the food available in TEFAP; right now, their shelves are nearly bare.

Facing a shortfall of 11 million meals, emergency food providers are being forced to stretch resources and reduce services at a time of unprecedented need.
Nearly 3 million New York City residents have difficulty affording food. Households with children, the unemployed and low-income New Yorkers are struggling the most. Those 11 million meals could have gone to children, seniors and others in need – instead, food pantries and soup kitchens are coping with unprecedented need while their main source of food has dwindled.

Emergency food cuts have stricken communities in all five boroughs, with losses averaging 37 percent.

  • Bronx: 2.2 million meals lost
  • Brooklyn: 3.8 million meals lost
  • Manhattan: 1.4 million meals lost
  • Queens: 3.0 million meals lost
  • Staten Island: 0.4 million meals lost

You can help. There are two things you can do to help us out of this crisis:

Advocate. The Farm Bill, our nation’s key anti-hunger legislation, is up for renewal this year. Critical food resources like TEFAP and the food stamp program (SNAP) are at stake. Contact your representatives in Washington and tell them to help keep food on the table for our neighbors in need.

Donate. The long-term relief needed from the Farm Bill will take months or longer to materialize. Your donations will provide immediate help for those at risk of going hungry.

Triada Stampas works to inform government officials, policy makers and the general public about the needs of the city’s network of emergency food organizations and the more than 1.3 million people who rely on them; and to advance public policy that meets those needs.

Farm Bill Draft Brings Deep Food Stamp Cuts

by Triada Stampas

Last week saw major developments in the Farm Bill, the federal legislation that sets funding and policy for safety net nutrition programs as well as agriculture and conservation programs for a five-year period. The Senate Agriculture Committee voted to approve a draft Farm Bill that would cut $4.5 billion from food stamp (SNAP) benefits.

In New York City, this cut would reduce the monthly SNAP allotments of 190,000 low-income households living in public housing or receiving federal Section 8 housing vouchers. (The average income of a household living in public housing in New York City is less than $23,000.)

New York’s only member on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Kirsten Gillibrand, voted against this bill on the grounds that it would harm some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers, and will be bringing an amendment to the Senate floor to protect children in SNAP households from cuts that may remain in the final bill.

The Senate Agriculture Committee’s Farm Bill draft does make improvements to the federal Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which provides the main source of food to our city’s soup kitchens and food pantries. The improvements appear significant on first glance – adding $150 million in mandatory funding and giving the federal government explicit authority to purchase additional TEFAP food in response to increases in need. However, TEFAP has already lost $175 million this year. It is clear that, on balance, emergency food providers will be coping with even fewer resources to confront the increased need created by cuts to SNAP.

What happens next? The bill will be brought to the floor of the Senate, where our legislators will have the opportunity to offer additional amendments before they vote on it. The House of Representatives must also develop and approve its version of the Farm Bill; the difference between each chamber’s version must then be reconciled and a consensus proposal adopted.

What can you do?

  1. Call your Senators and Representatives and let them know cuts to SNAP are not acceptable!
  2. Join Mario Batali and take the Food Stamp Challenge to raise awareness about this critical lifeline.
  3. Spread the word to your family, friends and coworkers through Facebook and Twitter.

Triada Stampas works to inform government officials, policy makers and the general public about the needs of the city’s network of emergency food organizations and the more than 1.3 million people who rely on them; and to advance public policy that meets those needs.

Thank You: The Child Tax Credit Is Safe

by Triada Stampas

Three weeks ago, the Food Bank reached out to supporters like you to help save a critical source of support provided by the Child Tax Credit (CTC) to our most vulnerable working families.

In a cynical move to offset the cost of the payroll tax and unemployment insurance extension, the House proposed cutting CTC refunds that benefit low-income, working families who file their taxes with Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) rather than Social Security numbers.

Thanks to the actions of advocates like you, Congress protected this critical benefit which, simply put, helps keep food on the table for working families.

Though, in the end, Congress agreed not to require spending cuts to offset the extensions, Congress responded to the need for funding by initiating the auction of public airwaves for wireless Internet systems.

By removing a proposed cut that would have hurt our country’s most vulnerable, working families and identifying a revenue generating initiative that will speed digital communications, Congress has provided a perfect example of a fact that often goes unstated in Washington – we can reduce spending without hurting low-income Americans.

The Food Bank would like to thank our advocates for helping to save the Child Tax Credit! Please take a moment to visit our advocacy page for other actions you can take in support of New Yorkers in need.

Triada Stampas works to inform government officials, policy makers and the general public about the needs of the city’s network of emergency food organizations and the more than 1.3 million people who rely on them; and to advance public policy that meets those needs.

President Obama Aims to Protect Hunger Safety Net

By Triada Stampas

In order to pay for improvements to school meals programs in 2010, Congress and President Obama cut $2.2 billion from future food stamp (SNAP) benefits under the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.”

Signing the bill into law, President Obama promised to restore the funds. Last week in his budget request, he did just that, aiming to ensure no family loses the resources they need to provide food for themselves and their children.

In addition to the restoration of food stamp funding, the President’s fiscal year budget protects the nutrition safety net at a time when millions of Americans still grapple with unemployment and wage stagnation. Some highlights of the budget request include:

  • Increasing support for food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) by $9.25 million to keep up with rising food prices;
  • Fully funding school meal programs; • Designating funds to address food deserts, which means the lack of access to healthy, affordable food in low-income communities;
  • Adequately funding the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) to support the 9.1 million participants expected this year.

The President’s budget request is a promising starting point for federal budget negotiations. Over the next several months, Congress will hold hearings, propose alternative funding plans and ultimately vote on a final budget that may look much different from the version President Obama presented.

While the past year has seen a number of threats to SNAP and TEFAP , we remain hopeful that Congress maintains the strong support for nutrition programs laid out in the President’s budget. To make your voice heard, contact your senators and representatives and tell them to support these essential nutrition assistance programs.

Triada Stampas works to inform government officials, policy makers and the general public about the needs of the city’s network of emergency food organizations and the more than 1.3 million people who rely on them; and to advance public policy that meets those needs.

Speaking Truth to Albany: End Finger-imaging Now!

By Triada Stampas

This past Wednesday, I traveled to Albany to attend Governor Andrew Cuomo’s second State of the State address. I was overjoyed to hear the governor highlight child hunger and come out forcefully against one of the biggest problems in our state’s low-income benefits programs – the practice of fingerprinting during the application process for food stamps.

Since I couldn’t say it better myself, here is what the governor said:

“For all of our progress, there are still basic wrongs to right. There is never an excuse for letting any child in New York go to bed hungry. Statewide, 1 in 6 children live in homes without enough food on the table. Yet 30 percent of New Yorkers eligible for food stamps — over 1.4 million people — do not receive them, leaving over $1 billion in federal funds unclaimed every year.

“We must increase participation in the food stamp program, remove barriers to participation and eliminate the stigma associated with this program. And we must stop fingerprinting for food. No child should go hungry in the great State of New York and we will do all that we can to prevent it.”

In addition to calling for increased participation and the removal of barriers and stigma – including finger-imaging – from the food stamp program, he also called for a number of other initiatives that will help us and those we serve, including:

  • improving food access in food deserts;
  • foreclosure relief and tenant protection;
  • setting up a health insurance exchange to provide more New Yorkers with insurance and lessen healthcare costs;
  • and reducing (or, for some, eliminating) the state income tax burden on low-income New Yorkers.

It will take a lot of work to make all of this happen. But the fact that these issues all made it into this year’s address means that these are the items Governor Cuomo has pledged to prioritize and devote resources to seeing done.

We don’t see this happen every day, and we will be doing everything we can in the coming months and year to help make sure that true progress is made.

Triada Stampas works to inform government officials, policy makers and the general public about the needs of the city’s network of emergency food organizations and the more than 1.3 million people who rely on them; and to advance public policy that meets those needs.

Governor Cuomo: No Child Should Go to Bed Hungry in New York

By Triada Stampas

This past Wednesday, I traveled to Albany to attend Governor Andrew Cuomo’s second State of the State address.  I was overjoyed to hear the governor highlight child hunger and come out forcefully against one of the biggest problems in our state’s low-income benefits programs – the practice of fingerprinting during the application process for food stamps.

Since I couldn’t say it better myself, here is what the governor said:

“For all of our progress, there are still basic wrongs to right. There is never an excuse for letting any child in New York go to bed hungry. Statewide, 1 in 6 children live in homes without enough food on the table. Yet 30 percent of New Yorkers eligible for food stamps — over 1.4 million people — do not receive them, leaving over $1 billion in federal funds unclaimed every year.

“We must increase participation in the food stamp program, remove barriers to participation and eliminate the stigma associated with this program. And we must stop fingerprinting for food. No child should go hungry in the great State of New York and we will do all that we can to prevent it.”

In addition to calling for increased participation and the removal of barriers and stigma – including finger-imaging – from the food stamp program, he also called for a number of other initiatives that will help us and those we serve, including:

  • improving food access in food deserts;
  • foreclosure relief and tenant protection;
  • setting up a health insurance exchange to provide more New Yorkers with insurance and lessen healthcare costs;
  • and reducing (or, for some, eliminating) the state income tax burden on low-income New Yorkers.

It will take a lot of work to make all of this happen. But the fact that these issues all made it into this year’s address means that these are the items Governor Cuomo has pledged to prioritize and devote resources to seeing done.

We don’t see this happen every day, and we will be doing everything we can in the coming months and year to help make sure that true progress is made.

Triada Stampas works to inform government officials, policy makers and the general public about the needs of the city’s network of emergency food organizations and the more than 1.3 million people who rely on them; and to advance public policy that meets those needs.

What the Supercommittee’s “Failure” Means

By Triada Stampas

Though it does not seem likely that the Congressional supercommittee in charge of reducing the national deficit by $1.2 trillion over ten years will be able to come together with a solution, they have not actually failed yet.

The supercommittee has until this Wednesday – the day before Thanksgiving – to produce a bill.

What are the stakes if the supercommittee is able to mend their differences? In their negotiations, all federal government programs will be fair game for cuts, restructuring or elimination. This would include the programs that are the foundations of our country’s hunger safety net – the food stamp program (SNAP), and the federal emergency food assistance program (TEFAP), which is the single largest source of emergency food in New York City and has comprised approximately half of the food distributed by the Food Bank For New York City in recent years.

So, then, what if the increasingly likely prospect that the supercommittee is unable to agree on a bill comes to pass? In that case, automatic across-the-board cuts of $1.2 trillion will take effect on January 1, 2013. Half of those cuts will be in non-defense programs, with certain exemptions (including programs such as TEFAP, SNAP and the Section 8 housing benefit). However, other essential programs that low-income Americans rely on including WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) and community development block grants would be included in the cuts.

Right now, the leadership of the Agricultural Committee has provided a proposal to the Supercommittee that would restrict the ability of states to coordinate LIHEAP, the home heating subsidy, with food stamps. This “Heat or Eat” program, allows the 14 states that currently implement it to adjust the formula used to calculate food stamp benefits in order to provide Americans who struggle to keep the heat on over the winter months with a greater food stamp benefit so that they do not have to chose between keeping the heat on an keeping food on the table.

This proposed restriction would result in $4.2 billion in cuts to food stamp benefits nationwide. It would primarily affect people in public housing, seniors and people with disabilities. It would affect approximately 90,000 households in NYC alone, each of which would lose on average more than $100 in monthly food stamp benefits.

Both options put low-income Americans in distinct danger at every step of the deficit reduction process. It is important that we tell our legislators now that they need to protect our most vulnerable neighbors during deficit reduction. Help the Food Bank remind those in Congress that cutting these programs and forcing low-income individuals to choose between food or heat in the winter months is not an option.

Triada Stampas works to inform government officials, policy makers and the general public about the needs of the city’s network of emergency food organizations and the more than 1.3 million people who rely on them; and to advance public policy that meets those needs.

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