Since 2009, an average of 7.6 million households in New York State were described as food insecure each year, and more than 3 million New Yorkers have enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. Despite this, the Executive Budget for FY ’13-’14 calls for a 10% cut to emergency and supplemental food programs such as the Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP), Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and others. These cuts come at a time when not only is the need for such programs increasing, but the persistent issues of hunger and poverty have been exacerbated by the lingering effects of the economic recession and acute needs in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
According to the NYS Department of Health, 12% of New Yorkers do not always have enough money to meet their basic nutritional needs, and more than 35% may be eligible for food assistance programs such as SNAP. In 2011, more than 3 million New Yorkers were living in poverty, and in New York City, it marked the third straight year that the poverty rate has gone up among NYC residents. These growing rates of poverty and food insecurity in New York State have also been reflected in a growing need for anti-hunger programs. As of November 2012, more than 3.1 million New York State residents were on food stamps, a 1.4% increase from the month before, a 3.5% increase from the year before, and a whopping 72.2% increase from Nov. 2007.
Amidst this increasing need for supplemental and emergency food supplies, this years’ budget proposes a cut of nearly 10% to the Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP) and 25 other anti-hunger programs. This cut comes by way of grouping the 26 different state programs together, underneath the title of “Maternal and Child Health and Nutrition”, into a block grant that will be dispersed through a competitive process to selected programs. The total funding for “Maternal and Child Health and Nutrition” comes to $114 million, 10% less than the sum of the budgets of each individual program. Administering budget cuts in this way not only reduces the overall amount of money available to each program, but also forces them to compete with one another, all while more and more New Yorkers are seeking their services. HPNAP alone received more than 30 million requests for food assistance in 2011 through its 2,600 food pantries, soup kitchens, and emergency shelters throughout the state. In total, the program aided in providing 195 million meals in 2011, an increase of 8 million meals from 2010.
Nowhere is the need for services such as HPNAP more evident than in the former 16th Congressional District (now redistricted into what is the 15th District) which encompasses several neighborhoods in the South Bronx including Bedford Park, East Tremont, Fordham, Hunts Point, Morrisania, Mott Haven, and University Heights. A new report from the Food Research and Action Center showed that from 2011 to 2012 more than 36% of households in the district suffered from “food hardship”, the highest rate in the nation. For neighborhoods such as these, and others like them across the state, the impacts of these cuts will be felt in devastating fashion. Reduced funding for emergency food programs could mean staff layoffs, reduced hours, reduced food supply, and/or closures for food pantries, soup kitchens, and emergency shelters throughout New York State. Forcing these programs to compete against other food assistance programs for funding undermines the mission of each program, denies the reality that many families use multiple sources of food assistance, and puts thousands of New Yorkers at risk of hunger.
There is still time to reinstate funds for HPNAP and other vital food assistance programs. To take action, contact your New York State Senator and Assembly Member today and tell them to restore funding for emergency food programs. Also, visit http://www.foodbanknyc.org/ for more information on how to show your support.
Contributed by Cory Mills-Dick of the Human Services Council