As Hurricane Sandy leaves millions of New Yorkers without shelter or access to food, including those who were already struggling to make ends meet, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand are calling on the USDA to implement emergency food resources.
Specifically, the Senators are calling for approval for a mass Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) reimbursement for recipients in the impacted counties as well as approval to implement a Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) as soon as possible. The Senators are also asking the USDA to channel all possible federal resources through the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) to New Yorkers in need, particularly in New York City, the Hudson Valley, Westchester and Long Island that took the worst of the storm. These steps will help New Yorkers to cover costs of purchased food that was lost to Hurricane Sandy, and to waive the unprepared food requirement for SNAP purchases.
"Hurricane Sandy has devastated the lives and homes of millions of New Yorkers, and it is critical that emergency food assistance is provided to those left in its wake," said Schumer. "We are urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide critical support to New York food pantries, as well as to individuals that rely on such assistance to feed their families during these difficult times."
"Standing by those who are struggling is part of who we are as Americans," Senator Gillibrand said. "And as Hurricane Sandy leaves millions of struggling New Yorkers without food or shelter in its wake -- we need to stand by them today with access to healthy meals so they can meet basic needs as we work to clean up and get back on our feet."
Soup kitchens and food pantries are serving New Yorkers with food deliveries where conditions allow, and nutrition advocates and volunteers are working around the clock to bring meals within reach to New Yorkers displaced by the storm and flooding.
But as families that receive food stamps reach the end of the month when benefits typically run scarce, more will turn to food pantries, doubling the pressure on these resources already stretched thin by the storm.
Therefore, Senators Schumer and Gillibrand are calling on the USDA to bring all federal resources to bear to keep food pantries stocked, and help feed struggling New Yorkers left in the wake of this massive storm.
The Senators' complete letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is below:
Dear Secretary Vilsack,
Thank you again for your partnership in helping New York after Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee struck our state last fall. Your attention to New York's post- disaster needs were much appreciated, and we are writing to you today to again ask for your assistance in helping New York recover from Super Storm Sandy.
Specifically, we seek your support in 1) granting a mass Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) reimbursement for recipients in the disaster impacted counties, 2) waiving the unprepared food requirement for SNAP purchases, since so many New Yorkers are without power and unable to cook their own meals, 3) approving the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) when submitted by the state, and 4) sending additional Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) resources to our regions in need post disaster, especially New York City, Hudson Valley, Westchester and Long Island.
We are so proud of our New York soup kitchens and food pantries which continue to serve New Yorkers in need with food deliveries when weather and road conditions have allowed. Anti-hunger workers and volunteers in New York are working double time to make sure that all New Yorkers, but especially those vulnerable populations, don't go without food. New Yorkers need additional TEFAP food to survive.
New Yorkers who receive SNAP benefits have lost up to 90% of their benefits due to power outages and flooding, meaning they are in critical need of immediate reimbursement. We need to connect those eligible to the Disaster SNAP program once it is up and running, as well as procure as much food as possible for resource strapped food banks, pantries and soup kitchens. Many food pantries and soup kitchens are flooded or lost power, meaning they have spoiled food and equipment damage. We need to help them rebuild, but also recognize the added pressure this will put on those that are operational. These soup kitchens and food pantries need additional TEFAP resources to stay open and keeping hunger at bay in New York.
Thank you again for your continued support of New York, especially during these critical times after Super Storm Sandy. We look forward to continuing to work together.