Brooklyn Pantries Feel Pinch of Looming SNAP Cuts

As potential cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly referred to as the Food Stamp program) loom, food pantries in Brooklyn are already feeling the strain with a summer surge in the number of patrons, reports Leah Robinson for the Brooklyn Bureau. At the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger pantry alone, the number teeters in vicinity of 30,000.

In June, nearly two-thirds of Brooklyn pantries were already reporting supply shortages. The Senate has passed legislation with billions of dollars in cuts, which come in response  to an increase in school lunch funding.

(Photo by Clementine Gallot, Flickr Creative Commons License)

Almost 2 million New Yorkers could see their EBT funds decrease as SNAP funds may get cut in the coming months. (Photo by Clementine Gallot, Flickr Creative Commons License)

Reauthorization negotiations on the Congressional Farm Bill this month threaten to deliver large cuts to SNAP. The Senate passed a bill containing $4.1 billion in cuts to total national funding for the next ten years. The food stamp program was passed and will result in up to 99 million fewer meals per year in New York City. A House bill aiming to cut even more ($20 billion) from SNAP was defeated this past week.

Even if Congress changes its mind about new cuts, this November SNAP recipients across the country are already set to have their benefits cut by 10 percent. These cuts, the result of an increase in federal school lunch reimbursements through the “Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act” back in 2010, are equivalent to a net loss of 60 million meals for New York City residents alone per year.

Approximately 1.9 million New Yorkers depend on SNAP. To increase awareness of the situation people in their own backyard face, the Food Bank for New York City started the “Lost Meals” outreach campaign to get New Yorkers and beyond to reach out to elected officials and other leaders, and join the Food Stamp Challenge, where the participant would simulate living on a $1.50 per meal budget. Mayoral candidates John Liu and Anthony Weiner have participated. The Food Bank also held a forum with the city’s major non-profits headed by women, with the premise that 80 percent of food stamp recipients are women and children. Speakers looked at what their organizations were doing to help poor New Yorkers get through the budget cuts.

“As women leaders we have to ask ourselves, ‘What do we owe to those women who have not attained what we have?’” said Margarette Purvis, who heads the Food Bank.

In relation to using SNAP cuts to fund school lunches, Triada Stampas, senior director of government relations at the Food Bank, translated the situation into what it means for New York City.

“We didn’t really get the bang for our buck. While other sections of the country had very low quality school food, our city’s school lunch exceeds the federal standard. So New York City students may not be seeing a noticeable difference in their school lunches and will still be coming home to less food on their table due to SNAP cuts.”

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