Funding would feed over a million vulnerable New Yorkers
New York — At the Executive Budget Hearing of the Finance Committee, City Council Members Stephen Levin and Barry Grodenchik presented a letter on behalf of the entire Council, urging the Administration to include $22 million in baselined food funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP) in the Fiscal Year 2018 New York City budget. The fifty Council Members echoed the call for an increase from $8 million to $22 million baselined funding made by New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito in her State of the City Address.
“The epidemic of hunger in our city disproportionately affects women, children, seniors, and communities of color and it’s critical that we can guarantee that no New Yorker is turned away from a pantry or soup kitchen,” said Council Member Stephen Levin, Chair of the General Welfare Committee. “It is unacceptable that this Administration has failed to recognize the clear need to feed more than a million New Yorkers who depend on emergency food to survive.”
Each year, more than 1.4 million New Yorkers depend on emergency food to survive, accessing healthy food through providers such as food pantries and soup kitchens. The City faces an annual meal gap of 242 million meals, finding evidence of hunger in every corner of our city. But rather than growing to meet demand, the amount allocated to EFAP in the Executive Budget has been reduced significantly to Fiscal Year 2015 levels.
“New York City is one of the wealthiest cities in the world, yet one in five children rely on soup kitchens and food pantries. I was disappointed to learn that for a second year in a row, the budget is going backwards instead of forwards on funding to address the issue of hunger,” said Council Member Barry S. Grodenchik. “Ensuring that all New Yorkers receive nutritious and high-quality foods should be a top priority. The mayor proposes spending just a $1.29 a New Yorker on emergency food – we can and must do better. It’s critical that the City provide the necessary $22 million to the Emergency Food Assistance Program to help alleviate the hunger being felt by too many hard-working New Yorkers.”
Increased funding is critical to meet the need for emergency food for vulnerable New Yorkers across the five boroughs. EFAP provides nutrition education, food stamp outreach, and a steady, year-round supply of nutritious food to more than 500 emergency food providers throughout New York City. Meals include all five food groups and meet the City’s rigorous nutrition standards. The program is also an important source of emergency food that is kosher and that meets halal standards. Importantly, pantries serve anyone who asks for help, regardless of immigration status.
“The number of hungry New Yorkers continues to grow and it is essential that we fund services to meet this basic human need. The Council should not have to negotiate and defend the Emergency Food Assistance Program every year,” said Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, Chair of the Committee on Finance. I look forward to working with this administration to reach an agreement to baseline EFAP and address our city's unacceptable meal gap.”
Since November 2013, the need for emergency food has escalated dramatically. Because of cuts to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, vulnerable New Yorkers have lost more than 161 million meals annually. Demonstrably, emergency food providers reported that at multiple points in 2016, their resources have often been depleted:
- Approximately half of providers ran out of food for adequate pantry bags or meals;
- More than 2 in 5 food pantries had to reduce the amount of food in pantry bags; and
- Nearly one third of food pantries and soup kitchens reported having to turn people away due to food shortages.
These statistics speak to an insufficiency in the emergency food supply and the acute operational stress under which food pantries and soup kitchens have been functioning since the cuts. As the new federal administration threatens additional funding reductions, it is more important than ever that the Council and the Administration collaborate to ensure that New Yorkers have regular access to nutritious food.
“Half of food pantries and soup kitchens in New York City - the last line of defense against hunger - are facing food shortages. Without additional resources, more New Yorkers run the risk of being turned away,” said Margarette Purvis, President and CEO of Food Bank For New York City. “Ensuring no New Yorker goes hungry is a priority shared by leaders across the aisle. On behalf of our network of 1,000 charities and schools throughout the five boroughs, we are grateful for the unanimous support of the New York City Council in calling for an increase in funding for EFAP to $22 million. We look forward to working with the Administration and the City Council to ensure that the Fiscal Year 2018 New York City budget includes this much needed funding increase so that even in the hardest of times, hunger will not hold anyone back from reaching their full potential.”
“Hunger affects every borough and every community. We at Project Hospitality and the Staten Island Food for All Campaign are grateful to the entire City Council, especially our Council Members Joe Borelli, Steve Matteo and Debi Rose, who have shown unity in the fight against hunger by advocating for increasing EFAP funding for food to $22 million, which will help food pantries and soup kitchens in Staten Island and throughout the city,” said Reverend Dr. Terry Troia, Executive Director, Project Hospitality.
The Administration must work with the City Council to close this meal gap and ensure that no New Yorkers are turned away from nutritious food that they and their families need to survive. To keep up with rising food costs and increased demand, Mayor de Blasio must include $22 million in baselined funding for emergency food in the FY 2018 New York City budget.