New York Hunger Relief Programs

In 2010, nearly 2.8 million New Yorkers lived in poverty—that’s 14% of all New Yorkers!—and 12.4% of residents struggled with food insecurity, meaning they are unsure about when they will next receive a meal. In Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester and Albany, poverty rates are above 25% and over 2.3 million residents statewide rely on emergency food assistance annually. The number of New York State households participating in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also called food stamps, has increased since the recession—to almost 2.9 million households. Each SNAP dollar spent generates $1.84 in the U.S. economy and creates jobs in industries tied to food production, shipping and sale.

Federal and State Programs that Address Hunger:

Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP):
State sponsored grant program that provides emergency food programs at regional food banks and other organizations with lines of credit. HPNAP also includes the Operations Support and Equipment grant, which funds emergency food programs for operations and equipment expenses. HPNAP is managed by the NY State Department of Health. The program was funded at $31.9 million in fiscal year 2007-2008, but only at $28 million in fiscal year 2012-2013, despite a rapid increase in poverty and need for emergency food programs following the recession.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): Federally funded program, colloquially known as food stamps, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 2011, federal expenditures on SNAP–$78 billion—and participation in the program nationwide were the highest in U.S. history. On average in 2011, 45 million people (or one in seven Americans) received SNAP benefits each month—this represents a dramatic increase from 2007, when roughly 26 million people received benefits. In 2012, nearly 3.1 million New Yorkers participated in SNAP and nearly 400,000 working families across the state use SNAP to put food on the table.

Although the federal government funds this necessary program, states have the ability to alter eligibility requirements. In New York State, residents no longer have to prove they have little to no assets to qualify for SNAP; in essence, beneficiaries are now allowed to have funds in a savings account while also participating in this program. For a household of three in New York State to qualify for SNAP, their annual income (before taxes) must be less than $37, 056. New York received $5.4 billion from the federal government to distribute to SNAP beneficiaries in 2011.

Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC): Provides federal grants to states for supplemental food, health care assistance and nutrition education for low-income women who are pregnant or post-partum, infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk. In 2005, average monthly participation was 482,807 in New York State—by 2012, participation had increased to 524, 148. In 2005, the federal government granted New York $349 million; by comparison, in 2012 the state had less money from the federal government ($346 million) and over 40,000 more women, children and infants participating in the program than in 2005.

National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs: In 2005, New York State served 14.6 million free lunches to students whose families qualified for the program based on their income—by 2012 that number had increased to 18.7 million free lunches. Similar to the increase in free lunches served, the number of free breakfasts provided to students in New York State has risen from 6.8 million in 2005 to 9.77 million in 2012.

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