Albany, New York – With increased unemployment benefits set to expire on July 31, Congress must either act fast to increase SNAP funding or see staggering levels of hunger sweep across the country. Federal lawmakers currently are gridlocked again over relief legislation. Draft proposals suggest the final product may eliminate or slash supplemental unemployment insurance and provide no second stimulus check to hold people over.
If Congressional inaction pushes millions of food-insecure families over the benefits cliff, they will inevitably fall back on food banks and the SNAP program to put food on the table. SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) is the largest nutrition assistance program in our country, providing monthly benefits to help people buy food at local grocery stores and farmers’ markets. It has been our nation’s first line of defense against hunger since its creation more than 40 years ago.
“For every meal provided by food banks, SNAP provides nine meals. SNAP is timely, temporary and targeted to those who need it most,” said Dan Egan, the executive director of Feeding New York State.“Across the state we have seen reliance on food banks increase 50% since the onset of the pandemic and had already anticipated necessary increases to SNAP even before COVID-19 arrived in our region.”
New York’s food banks have increased their distributions, providing over 144 million pounds of food in the last four months – a 50% increase compared to the same period last year. Individual food pantries have seen increases far in excess of this rate.
Food banks are already changing the way they do business because of the pandemic. Now, food normally picked up by individuals at a local food bank is being loaded en masse into large boxes meant to sustain a family over several days. For low-contact delivery, boxes are directly delivered to homes or distributed at ad hoc drive-throughs. These safety measures increase the cost of connecting hungry families to the food they need.
While the level of need has already skyrocketed, it will certainly reach unprecedented heights if Congress leaves the unemployed and food-insecure at the mercy of a still partially-shut down economy without any aid to sustain them.
“While states and the federal government boosted budgets for hunger-fighting programs at the beginning of the pandemic, the need remains very high and will get worse if Congress fails to do its duty,” said Egan.
Without rapid action to increase SNAP funding, the youngest will also be the hardest hit when unemployment runs out next week. One in every six children in New York do not have enough food to eat. Hunger spells disaster for their developmental health; given the scientifically established ripple effect between childhood hunger and below-average outcomes in health and education, New York State’s children can ill-afford to lose ground in the fight against food insecurity.
Meanwhile, food banks will continue to distribute meals to those in need and keep their eyes on Washington for more aid. Here is a small sampling of the dozens of food drops that will be held across the state at the following times and locations:
|July 28||Monroe County||FoodLink|
|Irondequoit DPW, 2629 East Ridge Road, Irondequoit 14622 (1PM – 3PM)|
|Bronx – St. Mary’s in the Bronx (9am)||City Harvest|
|Schenectady County – Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church (9am)||Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York|
|July 29||Monroe County||FoodLink|
|City of Rochester Public Market, 280 North Union St., Rochester 14609 (2PM – 4PM)|
|Nassau County Park Avenue Elementary School||Island Harvest|
|955 Park Ave, Westbury, NY 11590 (11am-1:30pm)|
|New York County – Lincoln Center||Food Bank for NYC|
|Schuyler County – Watkins Glen||Food Bank of the Southern Tier|
|July 30||Monroe County||FoodLink|
|Port of Rochester, 4800 Lake Ave., Rochester 14612 (9AM – 11AM)|
|Saratoga County Ballston Spa High School (9am)||Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York|
1 The association of Feeding America food banks; together their ten members serve every part of the state. Last year, they distributed over 240 million pounds of food to New Yorkers in need. Feeding New York provides advocacy, grants management, produce sourcing and other services its member food banks.