By Jonathan Sperling
Cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are driving a surge in the number of New Yorkers who visit food pantries.
Roughly 80 percent of the city’s food pantries and soup kitchens have experienced elevated traffic, according to a new report by the Food Bank For New York City, a nonprofit which provides food for New Yorkers in need. Jamaica, Hollis and St. Albans are among the Queens communities hit hardest but the cuts, according to the report.
NYC residents have lost more than $1 billion in benefits in the wake of the 2013 SNAP cuts, according to data the Food Bank released last week.
“That amounts to 283 million breakfasts, lunches and dinners that should have been on the plates of our friends and neighbors,” Food Bank For NYC said in its report. “These reflections provide a new perspective on the response to the daily emergency of serving people who are struggling to make ends meet in New York.”
The Brooklyn neighborhoods of Canarsie and Flatlands have also experienced a significant impact. More than 40 percent of food pantries and soup kitchens citywide told Food Bank For NYC that their visitors have increased by more than half.
According to Food Bank For NYC, legislation that cuts SNAP actually leads to less economic activity. “Food inflation” — the cost of food — has risen by 27 percent boroughwide since 2013. In 2017 alone, SNAP benefits helped to generate more than $5 billion in economic activity. A large amount of these SNAP dollars “go directly into local economies” and small businesses. according to Food Bank.
“The emergency food network is not — and cannot be — the replacement for harmful policy
and legislation. As advocates, community leaders, government and elected officials, we must
recommit to invest in the total emergency food network, reject any policy proposal that keeps
food away from hungry people and ignore anything that distracts us from citywide solutions,” Food Bank For NYC said in the report. “Fighting hunger in New York City requires the support of our entire community, from our elected leaders and nonprofit organizations, to advocates and direct service providers.”