Over the last year or so, Jean Dropp said there has been a steady increase in families and community members lining up for government-assisted meals.
“We did see a drop, but now it seems like more,” said Dropp, a secretary at St. Teresa’s for the last five years. “We’ve got a lot of people from Sandy that were affected that came into the pantry, but they largely moved on.”
But if legislation pending in Washington passes, the number of people looking for a free meal could jump dramatically.
Congressman Joseph Crowley joined some 30 members of the House of Representatives this week to protest the proposed revisions in the 2014 farm bill, legislation containing nearly $20.5 billion in cuts from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), often referred to as food stamps.
“This would kick 2 million families off the program and leave more than 210,000 children without school breakfast or lunch,” Crowley said in front of a Sunnyside Key Foods grocery store on Monday. “The impact of these cuts will particularly be felt here in New York City.”
According to Crowley, over 100 million fewer meals will be available to needy families in the city.
By participating in the “SNAP Challenge,” Crowley and the dozens of other Congress members have pledged to live on $4.50 per day, the same amount that 47 million Americans on food stamps eat on daily.
“We’re literally putting our money where our mouth is and demonstrating exactly how important the SNAP program is to millions of families in New York and across the country,” he said. “Living off $4.50 a day is no easy task, but I hope that through this challenge, I can help raise awareness of the struggles so many families face day-in and day-out.”
According to the Lost Meals organization that runs the SNAP Challenge, 1.9 million people in the city depend on meal assistance every day, a number that could drastically rise to nearly 200 million this year if the bill goes into effect.
Proposed cuts, while felt though the community, will also impact grocery stores that rely on customers with food stamps.
“Not only does SNAP help put food on the table for struggling families, but every $1 increase in SNAP benefits generates $1.70 in economic activity,” Crowley said.
Food Bank for New York president and CEO Margarette Puvis said the proposed cuts would be the most devastating to the program to date.
“Not only is it going to hurt the people that they’re already serving, but it’s going to make the lines longer,” Puvis said. “It’s going to put even more people in line for food that we won't have because we don’t have the ability to meet what’s coming our way.”
According to Puvis, overwhelming lines and food shortages devastated the Food Bank when 11 million meals were cut from the SNAP program in the 2011–2012 fiscal year, a fraction of the 200 million that would be lost from this bill.
“We think it’s almost intentional calling it the ‘farm bill,’” Puvis said. “People are not recognizing that it really is the most urban piece of legislation that has ever hit us.”