Levin leads fight for emergency food funding

May 26, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Councilmember Stephen Levin (left) is joining forces with several of his colleagues, including Councilmember Mark Treyger (at podium) to fight for funding for emergency food services. Photo courtesy of Levin’s office
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More than 1.4 million New Yorkers rely on food pantries and soup kitchens to feed their families, according to Councilmember Stephen Levin, who is leading a fight to convince the de Blasio administration to provide funding in the city budget for programs providing food for residents facing emergencies.

On May 24, Levin was joined by several of his fellow City Council members and anti-hunger advocates at a rally outside City Hall to plead with Mayor Bill de Blasio to ensure that food programs will be adequately funded.

The Executive Budget proposed by de Blasio would cut funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP) by $4.9 million, Levin (D-North Brooklyn) said.

Coupled with funding cuts proposed in President Donald Trump’s federal budget, which seeks to reduce the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by more than $139 billion over 10 years, the mayor’s proposal would hit New Yorkers hard, Levin said.

Levin, chairman of the council’s General Welfare Committee, predicted that if the cuts proposed at the city and federal levels become reality, the city’s food pantries and soup kitchens would experience severe food shortages and long lines. 

“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. 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,” Levin said in a statement.

Mirroring a call made by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito in her State of the City address, all 51 councilmembers have signed on to an effort to increase EFAP funding in the city budget to $22 million dollars for Fiscal Year 18, which begins July 1.  

In another troubling development, emergency food providers reported that at multiple points in 2016, their resources were depleted. Approximately half of providers ran out of food to fill pantry bags several times during the year and nearly a third of food pantries had to turn people away, Levin said.

Anti-hunger advocates said the situation could reach an emergency situation.

“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.”


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