There are 1.3 million food insecure New Yorkers; one in five are children. For many of our clients, the high cost of kosher food presents a unique challenge: on average, a kosher meal is 30% more expensive. While, statewide, most families run out of SNAP benefits by the third week each month, a family that keeps kosher runs out by the second week.
Though all of the food in our system is kosher, our services are available to anyone who is hungry — regardless as to whether or not they keep kosher.
Jessica told the story of Gail, who for 20 years, taught Math and Reading to more than 300 students at a local Brooklyn public school. She aspired to instill a love of learning in her students to prepare them for future challenges. Then in 2012, her life dramatically changed when she was diagnosed with lupus and fibromyalgia. The frequent trips to the hospital and the excruciating pain cost her job. She tried to search for help on her own, but decades of being middle class, left her uninformed and unable to effectively navigate the social safety net. She explained that “this past year has really been a battle find hope.” Then she turned to Met Council. Our social service team was able to enroll her into government benefits, including SNAP, sign her up for monthly food distributions, and, with privately raised dollars, pay one month’s rent when her medical bills began to pile up. By helping Gail through these programs, her Met Council social worker helped stabilize her life.
Our food services are designed to sustain and empower hungry New Yorkers, like Gail. They include the country’s largest kosher food pantry system, emergency food cards, home delivered meals, food rescue and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) enrollment assistance.
Our goal, through our various food programs, is to provide a dignified solution to hunger.
Recently, federal entitlement changes have put additional strains on food insecure families.
Since ARRA (American Recovery Reinvestment Act) sunset last November, we have seen a 15% increase in demand on our pantries from new clients and an additional increase in need from our previous clients.
Although nationwide SNAP enrollment has decreased, food insecurity remains as high as it was pre-recession. With the high cost of living in New York City, we have not seen a decrease in demand for SNAP or food assistance.
In order to help more New Yorkers in their fight against hunger, we would suggest the following approaches:
- First, additional outreach and education to the immigrant population, seniors and the recently unemployed on SNAP eligibility. We are proud to work with New York State and Hunger Solutions for SNAP outreach; however, these three vulnerable populations need additional efforts.
- Many undocumented immigrants do not know that their children, whether born in the US or not, are eligible for SNAP.
- Seniors who have worked their entire lives, but do not have a deep safety net are unaware that they are qualified for SNAP. Specifically, many Holocaust survivors are eligible for SNAP, but do not think that they qualify because of their Nazi Victim compensation funds.
- And finally, recently unemployed do not enroll into SNAP because it is their expectation that their unemployment will be short term since the recession is over. These adults do not know that SNAP can be short terms as well.
- Our second suggestion is to increase CBO capacity by expanding the Paperless Office System (POS).
- Lastly, we applaud the Administration’s and HRA’s redesign and increased accessibility of ACCESS NYC. To best serve the hungry and needy in New York City, we recommend that HRA add a caseworker porthole for our CBO’s to utilize the new tools on behalf of their clients with pre-authorized consent. Thanks to the City Council, Met Council is able to deploy culturally sensitive case workers to neighborhoods throughout the city to best serve hungry New Yorkers. Case workers’ knowledge is essential in overcoming client’s barriers such as language, computer and internet access and understanding.
In conclusion, Met Council could not continue providing critical social services to thousands of needy New Yorkers each year without the vital partnership of New York City Council. We deeply value your leadership and partnership and look forward to working together to help the needy throughout the New York area.
Thank you. To view the testimony, please visit http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Video.aspx?Mode=Auto&URL=aHR0cDovL2NvdW5jaWxueWMucGVnY2VudHJhbC5jb20vZmxhc2gvbWVkaWFfcGxheWVyXzc5OGMuc3dmP3NlcnZlcj1ueWMtcnRtcC5wZWdjZW50cmFsLmNvbSZhY2NvdW50PWNvdW5jaWxueWMmdmlkZW9GaWxlbmFtZT1OWUNDLVBWLTI1MC0xNDE0MTEyNC0xMTExMDQubXA0&Mode2=Video#.VIcXj7-zXqs.email