Groups Rally Against SNAP Cuts

January 29, 2014       Zach Halper      

Three New York City-based nonprofits joined forces with celebrity chefs, religious leaders, and other advocates to push back against $9 billion in cuts made to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) during a press conference at the Church of St. Francis Xavier in Manhattan.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted yesterday on a new Farm Bill that, in combination with $5 billion in cuts in November, would reduce funding to SNAP by $14 billion. It is estimated that these cuts will reduce food benefits for around 1.5 million Americans, with every SNAP recipient already seeing a reduction between $30-$50 beginning this past November.

While the cuts will affect an estimated 15 states, they are expected hit New York especially hard. In particular, New York City will bear the brunt of 25 percent of the entire cut. Joining with a host of other advocates, United Way of New York City, City Harvest, and New York City Coalition Against Hunger are making a push to remove these cuts from the final Farm Bill.

According to federal data, more than 1.3 million New York City residents now live in homes classified by the federal government as food insecure, or unable to afford an adequate supply of food at all times. In addition, New Yorkers are expected to see a reduction of between $90-$130 in their benefits should the proposed cuts go into effect.

“Cuts to a program as vital as SNAP are simply unacceptable and this proposed Farm Bill goes one step further by disproportionately singling out New Yorkers,” said Jilly Stephens, executive director of City Harvest. “Food is a basic necessity, not a luxury, and we stand together to implore Congress to reject this heartless proposal.”

Sheena Wright, president and CEO of United Way of New York City, said that almost 2 million New Yorkers, including the elderly and low-wage workers, will be affected by the proposed cuts to SNAP. “This is New York City’s story like no one else’s,” she said. “It’s our responsibility to our neighbors, and to ourselves, to rally around the basic principle that every New Yorker should be well-fed.”

“A nation that cuts food for hungry children, seniors, veterans, and working people – solely to fund more corporate welfare – has lost both its soul and its mind,” said Joel Berg, executive director of New York City Coalition Against Hunger.

Joining the three organizations’ representatives at the press conference were a wide range of advocates, ranging from politicians to celebrity chefs, all who spoke about the negative impact the proposed SNAP cuts would have on New Yorkers and the nation as a whole. While the focus was primarily on how the cuts would affect the needy in both New York and across the country, speakers also drove home the point that SNAP benefits the economy in general. Federal data revealed that every $1 of SNAP dollars spent generates $1.73 in the U.S. economy.

“Less money will be spent in our local supermarkets, decreasing the hours for workers throughout the country,” said Anthony Speelman, secretary treasurer of UFCW Local 1500. “On top of that, there will be more people applying for food stamps because they’re not getting the hours they used to. Food stamps are a win for the economy, our communities, and our families in need and cutting them shouldn’t even be on the table for discussion.”