QNS.com: Millions of New York families feeling pinch after COVID-era federal food assistance program ends

QNS.com: Millions of New York families feeling pinch after COVID-era federal food assistance program ends | March 2023: Food pantries and community-based organizations across Queens and the city are ramping up efforts to relieve thousands of families who saw their federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits reduced on March 1.

More than 3 million New York families will have far less to spend on groceries after the emergency food assistance program that Congress enacted at the height of the pandemic has ended. Seniors are particularly vulnerable as they depend on Social Security as their primary source of income.

“Older adults are still feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the mental health challenges caused by social isolation. These have been compounded by the hardship of living on a fixed income despite inflation, increasing their vulnerability,” said Queens Community House (QCH) Associate Executive Director for Older Adult Services Anne Foerg. “At Queens Community House, we are seeing the financial impact of SNAP benefit cuts on our older adult members and the significant worry this is causing them during already challenging times.”

She added that QCH would provide services to soften the blow across the borough.

“We are working to help connect older adults to resources that will prevent food insecurity, including access to a daily hot meal at one of our five older adult centers, home-delivered meals to those unable to prepare meals and groceries from our two food pantries,” Foerg said. “Our caseworkers will continue to reach out and screen participants for other benefits and entitlements that will help counteract the loss of SNAP benefits.”

For some of the most extreme cases, monthly food allotments will drop from $281 to $23 a month, even as grocery prices continue to rise at their fastest rate in 40 years — up nearly 12% over the past year, according to the United Way of New York City, which joined City Harvest and Food Bank for New York City in calling on state and city leaders to collaborate and use budgets to keep crucial support available.

“To help make up for the loss of benefits, there should be a coordinated response that involves community organizations working with city and state legislative leaders and other key officeholders who should use their budgets to protect New Yorkers from cuts in SNAP benefits by increasing investment in programs that provide crucial food support,” they said in a joint statement. “On the federal level, Congress should act to increase SNAP supports and sufficiency through key changes to the Farm Bill. Acting together, we can help make sure fewer New Yorkers go hungry.”

Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas urged Gov. Kathy Hochul and Senate and Assembly leadership to fund anti-hunger initiatives in this year’s state budget, including her Universal School Meals bill, which would ensure all New York students receive nutritious school meals, as well as a measure that would help victims of SNAP and cash assistance fraud recoup their losses.

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