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Statement on Passage of the Farm Bill

Margarette Purvis, President and CEO, Food Bank For New York City

January 7, 2014

We are deeply disappointed to learn that this unjust Farm Bill is now the law of our land. Whatever the justifications being touted, we are left with the reality that hundreds of thousands of low-income families will face new hardship when they see their food assistance cut for the second time in less than a year.

This Farm Bill reauthorization could have – and should have - been an opportunity to strengthen and protect our nation’s safety net against hunger, especially at a time when one in seven households across our country struggles to afford food. It is a profound failure of leadership that instead produced today’s outcome: a Farm Bill that takes more than half its “savings” off the plates of struggling families. It is this same profound failure of leadership that guided negotiations that from the outset were never about whether to cut our nation’s first line of defense against hunger, but instead about how much.

The Agricultural Act of 2014 will strip 850,000 households nationwide of an average $90 per month in benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). New York will bear the brunt of this cut: nearly 25 percent of those affected are our neighbors. These families will lose 70-100 million meals within a year – more food than Food Bank For New York City distributes to the entire charitable network of emergency food providers in New York City.  

These cuts come on the heels of across-the-board SNAP benefit reductions that took effect this past November, when every single one of the more than 47 million Americans who rely on SNAP found themselves with less. In New York City, we quickly saw what happens when SNAP benefits are cut: 85% of the food pantries and soup kitchens in Food Bank For New York City’s network saw more people on their lines after November's cut than in the immediate aftermath of Super Storm Sandy. Almost half of our soup kitchens and food pantries ran out food in that first month; approximately one quarter had no choice but to turn people away. SNAP benefits, hardly generous to begin with - now average less than $1.40 per person per meal.  

A signed Farm bill proves that our Washington leadership has great capacity to be charitable. Unfortunately not to those who are most in need. Those who approved this bill must not be allowed to comfort themselves with the false hope that local charities will somehow step in to replace government’s sponsorship of a safety net for Americans in need. While we are willing to serve, all charitable efforts combined will not replace public support.

A Farm Bill that openly represents inequality by increasing hunger should have no place in our nation’s policy. We will continue to work with our champions in Washington to pursue opportunities to mitigate these cuts. We will also take this message to our leaders in Albany and in City Hall: as New Yorkers, we must come together to ensure we are doing everything within our means to right the great wrong of hunger in our nation and our city.

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