AS SENATE BEGINS FARM BILL DEBATE NEXT WEEK, GILLIBRAND, LEADING ANTI-HUNGER ADVOCATES URGE CONGRESS TO STOP BALANCING DEFICIT BY SLASHING FOOD STAMPS FOR THE MOST VULNERABLE
New York, NY – With the U.S. Senate set to debate the 2013 Farm Bill starting next week, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, was joined today by New York City Coalition Against Hunger Executive Director Joel Berg, Food Bank For New York City President & CEO Margarette Purvis, and AARP New York’s Senior Program Specialist Christine Deska, in urging Congress not to tighten its fiscal belt on the backs of children, seniors, veterans, and families facing a constant struggle against hunger. Senator Gillibrand is leading a coalition of one-third of her Senate colleagues pushing the Agriculture Committee to fully fund the nation’s food stamp program and restore the already proposed cuts. Senator Gillibrand also announced her plans to introduce an amendment to the Farm Bill to restore the proposed Senate cuts, as she did last year when the bill was on the Senate floor. The 2012 Farm Bill passed the Senate but was never signed into law due to the House of Representatives not taking up their version of the Farm Bill with even steeper cuts to the SNAP program.
Next week, the Senate Agriculture Committee will again move forward on proposed legislation which is expected to slash an estimated $4.1 billion in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, over the next decade. These cuts would result in an average benefit reduction of $90 per month for nearly a half a million households. Under this proposal, New York State would lose nearly $300 million per year in SNAP funding, with New York City facing a loss of $206 million or 70 million less meals each year, according to analysis by Food Bank For New York City.
Approximately 190,000 low-income New York City families and children who rely on benefits for their nutrition, and more than 270,00 households statewide, would be impacted by these deep cuts, according to the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. For many families trying to survive on monthly food stamps, their benefits only last until the third week of the month. Any cut to their benefits or eligibility would be devastating to their households.
Republicans from both the Senate and House have also introduced legislation that would cut billions of dollars from the national food stamp program and make fewer families eligible for the program.
“In this tough economy, a family losing this access to food assistance would be devastating,” said Senator Gillibrand. “More than half of food stamp recipients are children, eight percent are seniors and unfortunately, as many veterans are using food stamps as any time in history. As a mother and a lawmaker, watching a child go hungry is something I just will not stand for. Families who are living in poverty, who are just trying to figure out how to keep the lights on and put food on the table — they did not spend this nation into debt. And we should not be trying to balance the budget on their backs.”
“If we allow these steep cuts, government has essentially turned its back on some of our most vulnerable citizens – our children, our elderly, our struggling working families. We won’t allow this to happen on our watch,” said City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “In one of the wealthiest countries in the world, we cannot allow our fellow Americans to go hungry. We must prioritize funding to ensure that people don’t have to worry about when they will have their next meal. I wholeheartedly support the efforts of Senator Gillibrand and the coalition of Senators fighting to restore these proposed cuts that would devastate so many.”
“Programs, such as SNAP, that support purchases of food for families with limited resources are crucial to the health of communities,” said Marcel Van Ooyen, Executive Director of GrowNYC. “They are also vital economic drivers for small businesses such as our farmers. Cuts to SNAP, of which over $830,000 was spent in our markets last year, are incredibly short-sighted and detrimental to our region’s economic growth and our City’s well-being. Moreover, the proposed 7% cuts to the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition will result in the loss of $800,000 in New York State and force several markets to close, further impacting community health and farmer viability, and resulting in the reduction of SNAP redemptions.”
“We are so grateful that Senator Gillibrand has become one of the Senate’s greatest champions in the twin fights to end U.S. hunger and help family farmers stay on their land, said Joel Berg, Executive Director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. “The SNAP cuts she is opposing would take food out of the shopping carts of hungry working parents, their children, and senior citizens. Not only would the cuts signficantly increase hunger in New York, they would harm the local ecnomy by eliminating signficant numbers of food-related jobs. Fully funding SNAP is both a moral imperative and an economic necessity.”
“It is hard to imagine that at a time when so many New Yorkers are still struggling, decision-makers in Washington could take millions of meals off the plates of the most vulnerable among us,” said Margarette Purvis, President and CEO of Food Bank For New York City. “Nearly two-thirds of food pantries and soup kitchens in New York City have already been experiencing food shortages – SNAP cuts will force more New Yorkers to seek help from a safety net already stretched to the breaking point. We urge every member of Congress to make a commitment to protect SNAP and prevent these devastating cuts.”
“AARP New York commends Senator Gillibrand for her efforts to fully fund SNAP – one of the most effective antipoverty programs in the country. SNAP is vitally important to older New Yorkers struggling to survive on a fixed income,” said Beth Finkel, State Director for AARP in New York. “For many, SNAP is the lifeline that puts food on their table and helps them live healthier and more independent lives.”
Moody’s economist Mark Zandi has said, The fastest way to infuse money into the economy is through expanding the SNAP/food stamp program.” In fact, these SNAP dollars have a $1.71 return on investment in the economy with just one dollar of benefits creating a “ripple effect” through the economy.
Without food stamps, New York City’s poverty rate would have increased to nearly 25 percent in 2011, according to a report by the Center for Economic Opportunity. Nearly half of New York City’s population was pushed close to the poverty level in 2011, an increase of more than three percent since 2009. According to the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, more than 860,000 New York State children lived in food insecure homes between 2008-2010. This number represents 19.6 percent of New York’s children.
In 2011 alone, the country’s brave service members used more than $100 million in federal food aid on military bases, according to a report last year. This $100 million in food assistance for active duty men and women has tripled since 2008, and includes 1,000 current military members. Census data reveals an estimated 1.5 million veteran households receiving SNAP benefits.
Last June, Senator Gillibrand urged her Senate colleagues not to cut billions from SNAP as part of the 2012 Farm Bill debated by the Senate. Congress extended the 2008 Farm Bill under a continuing resolution through September 30, 2013.
The Senators wrote in a letter to Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow and Ranking Member Thad Cochran, “We are writing to express our support for fully funding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the next Farm Bill. SNAP provides essential nutrition benefits to working families, children, senior citizens, and disabled individuals in every state and town in our country. Many program beneficiaries receive only about $30.00 a week for food, and within this limited budget they struggle to provide healthy, nutritious meals for themselves and their family. SNAP plays a critical role not just in alleviating poverty and food insecurity, but also in improving dietary intake and health, especially among children. At this time of growing concern about obesity and chronic disease, enabling families to purchase sufficient healthy foods to meet their needs is more important than ever.”
The letter was signed by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), William M. Cowan (D-MA), Carl Levin (D-MI), Christopher A. Coons (D-DE), Mark Begich (D-AK), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV), Al Franken (D-MN), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tom Udall (D-NM), Angus King (I-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD).
Full text of the Senators’ letter is below:
Dear Chairwoman Stabenow and Ranking Member Cochran,
We are writing to express our support for fully funding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the next Farm Bill. SNAP provides essential nutrition benefits to working families, children, senior citizens, and disabled individuals in every state and town in our country. Many program beneficiaries receive only about $30.00 a week for food, and within this limited budget they struggle to provide healthy, nutritious meals for themselves and their family.
SNAP plays a critical role not just in alleviating poverty and food insecurity, but also in improving dietary intake and health, especially among children. At this time of growing concern about obesity and chronic disease, enabling families to purchase sufficient healthy foods to meet their needs is more important than ever. Based on national food consumption data, each additional SNAP dollar increases a household’s overall dietary quality score (as measured by USDA’s Healthy Eating Index). Research also shows that children enrolled in the SNAP program perform better in school and are less likely to suffer from health complications like metabolic syndrome and failure-to-thrive.
SNAP also plays a critical role at a stressful time in the life of families. The SNAP Program allows struggling families to put groceries on the table when they face financial troubles, and as their economic situation recovers families withdraw from the program. In fact half of SNAP participants entering the program are enrolled for 10 months or less.
SNAP is an essential safety net program that has touched the lives of millions of Americans. Researchers estimate that half of all American children will receive SNAP at some point during childhood, and half of all adults will do so at some point between the ages of 20 and 65 years. Furthermore, SNAP recipients are diverse with regards to race-ethnicity, many have earned income, and the vast majority of SNAP households do not receive cash welfare benefits.
SNAP provides a vital supplement to struggling families as they juggle their other household expenses including heat, shelter, child care, transportation, medicine, and health care. Both low-income and non-low-income families spend more on heating fuel when the weather turns cold, but poor families tend to spend a larger share of income on shelter cost and less on food to compensate. Research shows that children and elderly individuals eat less in the winter and the quality of their diet decreases as resources are shifted to pay for increased heating costs.
Please consider the needs of these struggling families, children, and senior citizens as you negotiate the next Farm Bill and protect SNAP from funding cuts.