Hunger Groups Ask Senator To Block Food Stamp Cuts

Dec 16, 2013

Senator Charles Schumer is being urged to block cuts to food stamps by activists like Mark Dunlea.
Credit WAMC composite image by Dave Lucas

Anti-hunger groups are calling on one of New York's U.S. Senators to block cuts to food stamps.

Anti-hunger activists have launched a statewide campaign urging New York Senator Chuck Schumer to vote against any farm bill that includes cuts in food-stamp funding. They also want Schumer to push to restore recent cuts.

Mark Dunlea, Executive Director of the Hunger Action Network of New York State, explains Farm Bill negotiators have agreed to $8.6 billion in SNAP cuts over the next 10 years.   "Most of those cuts are actually aimed at New York State residents. About a third of the people impacted nationally would be New York, mainly people in public housing would lose on average about 90 dollars a month in food stamps"

Dunlea supports his argument by pointing to the recent annual report on hunger and homelessness issued by the United States Conference of Mayors.  "They found that the demand for emergency food nationwide had increased about 7 per cent. Here in New York State it is actually closer to about 13 per cent."

Senator Schumer concedes SNAP is a valuable, essential program.  "Fraud has been eliminated from it. You can't use it to buy booze or other kinds of things. So it's a good program and there are a lot of people who have been out of work for a long time who need it."

Dunlea says food stamps participants in New York state would bear the brunt of the new round of cuts in the Farm Bill that have been agreed to by the lead negotiators: an estimated 850,000 households would see their food stamp benefits cut an additional $90 a month under the new bill — and 300,000 of those households are in New York state, primarily in public housing.  "Food stamp benefits only last right now maybe twenty days out of the month. Many families last ten days. That's when they turn to the food pantries and soup kitchens to help. And with hunger at record levels and homelessness at record levels, particularly here in New York State, this is not the time to be taking food away from hungry people."

Schumer hopes to avoid "as many cuts as possible". "I'm not gonna take an unequivocal yes or no position right now 'til I see what the final agreement is. they haven't come to an agreement yet. But I sure don't want to see them cut the SNAP program."

Dunlea suggests Schumer and other leaders look into reducing graft and waste in the Pentagon budget. He says the money could help feed children, the elderly, disabled and working families.