During the harsh winter, together with many social service providers, Met Council shared stories and statistics on hunger in our community.
Rena Resnick, Met Council’s Public Affairs Manager, testified:
For more than four decades, Met Council has supported and championed families, seniors and adults living in poverty and near-poverty. Met Council provides immediate assistance to New Yorkers in crisis and creates pathways to self sufficiency through the following programs: America’s largest kosher food pantry system, emergency social services, family violence services, home repairs, homecare services, benefits enrollment and outreach, and affordable housing. Our grassroots Jewish Community Council network provides support to families in their neighborhoods—right where they live.
In the fight against poverty, we serve immigrants, seniors living on fixed incomes, the un- and underemployed, and all others in need. As an organization founded on Jewish values, we serve everyone with dignity and empathy, regardless of race, ethnicity or religion.
We leverage government contracts with privately raised funds from individuals and foundations to increase the impact of our services.
Our culturally sensitive professionals provide an array of services to insular and immigrant clients utilizing a nuanced understanding of the clients’ community norms to move them from crisis to stability.
As many people in this room know, there are 1.4 million food insecure New Yorkers, of which more than 300,000 people live in poor and near-poor Jewish households that observe kosher dietary laws.
For many of our clients, the high cost of kosher food presents a unique challenge. While, Statewide, most families run out of SNAP benefits by the third week each month, an average family that keeps kosher runs out by the second week.
Allow me to share with you a story of one of these food insecure New Yorkers. For many years, David owned a kosher butcher shop in Boro Park. Every Friday, David would put aside some of the meat to provide free of charge to poor families in his neighborhood so that they could celebrate the Sabbath with dignity. As a senior, Sam no longer works at the store. Without his income that he earned at the store, he struggled every month to pay his rent and utilities. To save money, David stopped purchasing kosher protein until he walked into the Boro Park JCC and a caseworker enrolled him into SNAP. Now, with the assistance of SNAP David is able to add kosher protein in his diet to ensure that he is able have a nutritious diet.
David is one of the tens of thousands of poor and near-poor New Yorkers whom we serve through our food programs, which are designed to aid, sustain and empower hungry New Yorkers. They include the country’s largest kosher food pantry system, emergency food cards, home delivered meals, food rescue and SNAP enrollment assistance.
Last year we provided:
- Pantry items for 2.46 million meals to over 15,000 families each month at 30 sites
- 11,195 families enrolled into SNAP, leveraging more than $3 million in government funds
- $514,650 in emergency food cards
We understand the unique challenges of affording kosher food and the importance of food for rituals. That is why all of the food throughout our system is kosher. That said, our services are available to anyone who is hungry—regardless as to whether or not they keep kosher.
In order to help more New Yorkers in their fight against hunger, we have expanded our SNAP outreach efforts to focus on Holocaust survivors and seniors. Many seniors work their entire lives, but do not have a deep safety net and are unaware that they are qualified for SNAP.
Through the City Council Holocaust Survivor Initiative funds, Met Council created the “Fourth Week Initiative for Holocaust Survivors,” which will buy and deliver groceries for survivors, who are SNAP recipients, during the fourth week of each month. Our new Coordinator of Emergency Food Programs will ensure that clients receive supplemental groceries delivered to their homes and each month and will check in on the clients to evaluate for additional services and provide case management. With our partners at the local Jewish Community Councils we expect to continue to expand the service.
Additionally, through private funding from the National Council on Aging (NCOA), Met Council hired a Benefits Coordinator dedicated to educating and enrolling seniors. To ensure that barriers are reduced for seniors, we provide home visits for enrollment assistance as well as assistance with other food resources.
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 enhance ACCESSNYC options for CBO partners, allowing for integrated document submission at the time of the application submission through the use of computer and mobile upload. We also applaud HRA’s plans to provide a client account portal, where clients can view the status of their benefits, their benefit allotment and other important information online.
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.