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Children, Seniors Straining NY Food Pantry Resources

PHOTO: New York’s food pantries are seeing more traffic – even after the customarily crowded holiday season. Anti-hunger advocates report one reason is a cutback in SNAP benefits. Photo courtesy USDA.
PHOTO: New York’s food pantries are seeing more traffic – even after the customarily crowded holiday season. Anti-hunger advocates report one reason is a cutback in SNAP benefits. Photo courtesy USDA.
January 14, 2014

NEW YORK – SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps, were cut back in November after the economic stimulus from the 2009 recession expired.

And it has caused a strain on New York's food pantries and the food banks that supply them.

From Buffalo to Long Island, more people are making more frequent visits as their budgets stretch and sometimes fall short at month's end.

Mark Dunlea, who runs the Hunger Action Network, says now, Congress appears to be completing work on a Farm Bill which may contain another SNAP slash of $9 billion dollars over 10 years.

"We have a lot of upstate cities in particular where the official poverty rate for children is actually above 50 percent,” he says. “And so, we're very concerned that children, as well as seniors and the working poor, will really take a big hit."

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program helps feed more than 47.6 million Americans.

Dunlea says New York would especially be hard hit by additional SNAP reductions, with the average benefit cut being above the national average.

"Nationwide, about 850,000 households would lose an average of about $90 a month,” he says. “Three hundred thousand of those households would be in New York."

Joy Meyer-Buckley, who manages the Helping Hand pantry in Centereach, says there's a trickle-down theory at work, and not a good one.

"Pantries are struggling as they are,” she explains. “The food banks are struggling because donations are down, because corporate contributions are down. You know, it's a trickle effect."

At Long Island's largest food bank, Randi Shubin Dresner of Long Island Harvest says November's SNAP cuts are sending more people looking for assistance.

"They're having to go in more frequently, which is putting a strain on the food pantries all across Long Island,” she says. “Now, they're having to even cut back on how much they give to people coming in, and how frequently they come in and re-visit them."

An estimated 3.1 million New Yorkers have been affected by the reductions in SNAP benefits.




Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY