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BANK ON IT: Food Bank For New York City's Blog

Food Is A Human Right

By Triada Stampas

"No New Yorker should go hungry: access to adequate, nutritious food is a fundamental human right."

So says the introduction to Food Bank For New York City's anti-hunger policy platform, developed in partnership and consultation with the charities that make up the majority of our membership, and released in part last year as a transition plan for our city's new Administration. As emergency food providers, we work from a core belief that none of our neighbors should be without the basic needs for their survival.

Today is International Human Rights Day, a day designated to bring the world's attention to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948. Article 25 states, in part:

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food...

Hunger in our city is not an issue of food scarcity; our country produces more than enough food for all of us. As I have heard it said, "The presence of hunger is an absence of justice."

Unfortunately, recent actions in Washington have tipped the scale in the wrong direction. Since food stamp (SNAP) benefits were cut in November 2013, our city alone has lost more than 56 million meals.

In a city where 1.4 million New Yorkers rely on emergency food, and food-insecure residents were already facing a meal gap of 250 million meals, the distance we have yet to travel to secure the fundamental right to adequate food can be daunting. But every New Yorker has a role to play: with our voices, to advocate for needed resources and raise awareness about hunger; with our time and talent, to help the local charities on the front lines; and with our resources, to provide food and needed services to our neighbors in need.

Acting together, we can realize the right to food not just on International Human Rights Day, but every day.

Triada Stampas is Vice President for Research & Public Affairs at Food Bank For New York City.

Walking in Another Mom’s Shoes

by Alyssa Herman

Last week I experienced a moment that shook me to my core. In preparation for a press conference, we arranged a table with the amount of food people can afford with the current allotment of food stamps. There was just one package of chicken. I thought to myself, I feed my kids chicken three times a week. Imagine having only one chicken for the entire month. Then we took away $90 worth of those groceries -- that's how much Americans will lose each month as a result of massive food stamp cuts.

As I helped remove foods one by one from the groceries until we reached the $90 mark, I found myself thinking about the New York City mothers who have to make these hard choices for real. With each item I took from the table, I became more and more emotional. Suddenly I was one of those mothers, and I couldn't imagine having to make such horrible choices on a regular basis. The fresh strawberries were the first item to go. Then I had to take away the clementines. Next, the peanut butter, coffee, olive oil and milk. And finally, that one chicken. By the time we'd completed the display, there was barely any fresh produce on the table. As for protein, we were left with canned beans. How is that supposed to feed a family for an entire month?

Food Bank For New York City has been on the forefront of fighting against cuts to food stamps for months, and during the press conference we released disturbing data about the impact of the cuts.

With kids of my own, I know how important it is for children to have fresh vegetables and fruits, lean meats, grains and other nutritious foods. I suppose that's why I became so emotional. All I could think about were the mothers who have to decide what foods they're going to sacrifice each month and the children those sacrifices impact the most. Resources affect choices -- I know those moms want to give their kids milk! As emotional as I became, I'm grateful that I took part in setting up the display. Seeing how much people are really losing because of food stamps cuts resonates so much more than 30-second sound bites. That food equals real meals lost, and sometimes people need to see it with their own eyes to get how big of a loss it is for the 1.9 million New Yorkers who rely on food stamps to survive.

Alyssa Herman is the Chief Development Officer at Food Bank For New York City.

Awareness + Activism = Change

By Margarette Purvis

There are moments in life when you must decide to stand and fight, and THIS is one of those moments. At a time when so much is needed to eradicate hunger, attention has been spent on other issues. But attention MUST be paid to the massive cuts to SNAP (aka food stamps) that took effect earlier this month. These cuts will have a devastating impact on 47 million Americans--including 1.9 million New Yorkers--who rely on food stamps to keep food on the table. Hunger is going to increase dramatically in New York City and across the nation, and thousands of jobs may be lost. The real risk of even more cuts--$40 BILLION worth!--will mean an unprecedented crisis like we've never seen before.

Food Bank For New York City has been battling these morally bankrupt cuts to SNAP for months: raising our voice in opposition, making people aware of the threat, joining with like-minded partners to spread the word, and giving New Yorkers the tools needed to participate in this important fight.

We cannot fight this battle alone. A single voice can speak loudly, but a collective of voices gets heard. A single hand can take action, but millions of hands can activate change. What we need right now is awareness and activism on the ground. When there is understanding of what's at stake and a commitment to get involved, anything is possible. There is still time to make your voice heard. If we simply wait for Washington leadership to do the right thing, we may be waiting a very long time. Neither the White House nor Congress stepped in to beat the November 1st countdown. So it's up to us to do all that we can to affect change. We've certainly been doing that here at Food Bank. I'm incredibly proud of the way our Food Bank family, made up of a citywide network of charities, partners and supporters, have stepped up for this cause.

I want to thank the more than 80 national, state and local organizations around this country that have partnered with us via, a national online information and action resource that we launched to raise awareness and mobilize Americans. These critical partners are pushing out our shared platform through their own vast networks, furthering our important message. The partnership of all the organizations that have signed on to this cause has been invaluable in expanding our reach and making sure the stories of the neediest among us get the attention they not only deserve, but require. Help us send a clear message to Congress that cuts to SNAP are unacceptable by sending a pre-written letter - Act Now!

Margarette Purvis is the President and CEO of Food Bank For New York City. Follow her on Twitter at @FoodBank_Prez.

Taking the Farm Bill to the Street

By Beau G. Heyen

With drastic cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) looming, Food Bank For New York City has been diligently working to engage and inspire New Yorkers to speak out against this threat. We created and launched, a national online resource, to help people take action. We packed a bus full of supporters and headed to Washington, DC for our second annual Anti-Hunger Advocacy Day. While these and many other activities have helped to get the word out, we realized that we were still missing an important opportunity to reach everyday people right here on the streets of New York City.

When the idea of street teams first came up, I have to admit, I wasn't completely sold. New York City is a fast-paced place. Who has the time to stop and listen to a stranger on a street corner? However, after several conversations with my fellow Food Bankers, it became clear to me that advocacy really does need local attention.

So one of my colleagues and I took our message to the streets at the Brooklyn Borough Hall GrowNYC Green Market. Unlike those pesky campaigners who use a hard sell, we opted for a more subtle approach. With smiles on our faces we simply held up signs that read, Ask me how the Farm Bill impacts New Yorkers and Ask me how SNAP cuts impact New Yorkers. Dozens of people stopped to read the signs and speak with us.

Much to my surprise, it was easy to get people engaged and fired up. Hearing that SNAP recipients across the country will see a decrease in benefits come November 1st was just a starting point. Sharing the devastating impact of SNAP cuts in the Farm Bill moved people to take fliers, visit on their smart phones, and even join our Thunderclap, a social media tool that allows people to post a united message on Facebook and Twitter, right then and there. If you'd like to volunteer at an upcoming GrowNYC Green Market, click here.

Beau G. Heyen is a community mobilization consultant at Food Bank For New York City.

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