New York City families are already feeling the effects of recent cuts to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
More than 1.8 million city residents rely on the program, according to the New York City Coalition Against Hunger.
“It’s the one thing that has kept us from really widespread third world-style hunger,” Joel Berg, the coalition’s executive director, said.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 had temporarily increased SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps, as a way to stimulate the economy, but that boost expired Nov. 1. Two weeks ago the program was hit with $300 million in cuts.
A family of four will experience a decrease of about $36 a month, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priority. The benefits that families do receive will amount to less than $1.40 per meal per person, according to the center.
Berg said there are additional problems associated with the reduction of SNAP benefits.
“One of the greatest ironies is that obesity is probably going to increase” because SNAP recipients are unable to afford healthy food, Berg said. “Hunger and obesity are the flip sides of the same malnutrition coin.”
Berg also said SNAP contributes to the economy. It provides income to grocery stores, delivery people and food warehouses. Program cuts can result in the loss of jobs, he said.
The reduction also puts an additional strain on food pantries and soup kitchens, which are already cutting back their hours and rationing food, Berg said.
“This is particularly important for Queens because it’s a borough of working people,” Berg continued. “Most of the people on SNAP are working people. And the truth of the matter is that working people get so few other forms of support.”
It is up to Congress to undo the cuts to SNAP, but in the meantime anti-hunger activists are working to prevent even further reductions to the program.
Federal lawmakers have proposed making the eligibility requirements more stringent, which would affect between 4 million and 6 million Americans, according to the Center on Budget Policy and Priority. They have proposed cutting up to $40 billion. The reason for those cuts is to decrease the national debt.
“Things will go from worse to worser,” Berg said. “Additional cuts would be the most counterproductive, heartless policy I can possibly imagine.”
Political leaders from around Queens, especially U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) have been outspoken about preventing further cuts.
She said the cuts are devastating for New Yorkers.
“Congress needs to restore support for SNAP and come together to pass legislation that prevents additional cuts to this vital program,” she said.
Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio also criticized federal lawmakers.
“No New Yorker should go to bed hungry because of an extreme ideological agenda in Washington,” he said in a statement. “Our families are suffering. The recession and Superstorm Sandy have taken a terrible toll — and now Republican obstructionists are adding more pain on hardworking people.”
Reach reporter Bianca Fortis by email at bfortis@cn
Eggs, America’s Choice: $2.09
Instant oatmeal, 13 oz., Quaker Oats: $1.98
Bread loaf, Bimbo (family size), $1.98
Milk, 1 gallon, America’s Choice: $4.19 (WIC approved)
White rice, America’s Choice: $5.18
Chicken, whole, America’s Choice: $7.17
Barilla pasta (sale): $1.28
Ragu pasta sauce, 24 oz.: $1.99
Canned vegetables, Del Monte: $.88/ea: $3.52 (4)
Bag of kale, 16 oz: $2.48 (WIC approved)
Bag of apples, $3.98 (WIC approved)
©2013 Community News Group
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