With the House of Representatives scheduled to consider their version of the 2014 Farm Bill this week -- a bill that would cut over $20 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or "food stamps") -- Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx) and Margarette Purvis, President and CEO, Food Bank For New York City, voiced their strong opposition and detailed the impact the cuts would have on New York City in a press conference at the Key Food supermarket in Sunnyside, Queens.
To highlight the effects of these cuts, Crowley, along with over 30 of his colleagues in the House of Representatives, is participating in the "SNAP Challenge", where he will commit to living on just $4.50 a day, which is the food budget of an average SNAP recipient.
"By taking the SNAP Challenge, 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," said Crowley. "Living off of $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."
This week, the House of Representatives is expected to vote on the 2014 Farm Bill reauthorization, which includes the Republican-proposed $20.5 billion in cuts to SNAP. Should these devastating cuts take place, New York could lose an estimated 200 million meals for low-income New Yorkers. This comes at a time when SNAP is the only thing keeping millions of Americans from falling deeper into poverty. For example, SNAP lifted about 4.7 million Americans above the poverty line in 2011, including 2.1 million children.
"Our country's anti-hunger safety net is under attack, more so than at any time in Food Bank For New York City's 30-year history. Congress' proposed cuts to SNAP benefits would double our hunger crisis -- a devastating proposition in a city where one in three residents already struggles to put food on the table," said Food Bank For New York City President and CEO Margarette Purvis. "We are grateful to Congressman Crowley for his leadership to fully restore the proposed cuts to SNAP benefits, and urge all of our Members of Congress to oppose any efforts to weaken SNAP or lower benefit amounts."
Over 47 million Americans nationwide rely on SNAP, and more than half of SNAP recipients in New York State are in households with children. More than one third of New York State recipients are elderly or disabled. If implemented, the cuts in the House Farm Bill would remove 2 million people from the SNAP program nationwide and disproportionately harm New York City. For example, one proposed change would target recipients who receive assistance from the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program -- nearly half of the households affected by this cut live in New York City.
In addition to cutting SNAP, the Farm Bill also includes changes that would make it harder for people to qualify for food assistance. Because eligibility for school breakfast and lunch programs is often linked to SNAP eligibility, 210,000 children will be left without school breakfast or lunch. The ripple effects of these cuts go even further, as retailers face lost revenue from fewer SNAP redemptions.
"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," continued Crowley. "Our focus should be on providing opportunities to help lift families out of poverty, grow the economy, and create economic stability for all, not stripping away this critical lifeline."
To stop these massive cuts, Food Bank For New York City recently launched an emergency "Lost Meals" guerilla marketing as well as a digital media campaign at www.lostmeals.org. As part of its campaign, Food Bank is raising awareness and mobilizing New Yorkers through a social media campaign, auto-generated letters to Congress, thousands of postcards distributed to its member agencies and a call for elected officials to take the Food Stamp, or SNAP, Challenge.
Congressman Crowley is the eight-term representative from the 14th Congressional District of New York, which includes sections of Queens and the Bronx. He is a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee and serves as Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus in the House of Representatives.