March 22, 2001
Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy
(518) 455-5203

(Albany, NY) Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (Brooklyn), Chair of the Assembly Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy, was pleased to announce the Assembly’s budget resolution has once again made a commitment to providing better nutrition for hungry children, families and seniors. The resolution would restore $4 million for emergency food programs that was removed in this year’s Governor’s proposal and adds new funding for those programs as well as nutrition services targeted to women and children and seniors.

Assemblyman Ortiz successfully fought for the following increases to the Governor’s budget for food assistance in the Assembly’s budget resolution: $2 million increase for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for senior home-delivered meal programs; $3 million increase for WIC benefits; and $5 million increase for the Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP) targeted to volunteer-run food banks, soup kitchens and food pantries.

"We can be proud of our efforts to increase funding for the fight against hunger. Our support has helped programs provide extra food at the end of the month for working families struggling to leave welfare and succeed in the workplace. Food assistance is justified not only by our compassion for those in need, but also by fiscal responsibility in preventing expensive hospital stays for low-birthweight babies, nursing home placements for seniors, developmental and educational programs for students, and all the subsequent social ills caused by hunger and malnutrition," said Ortiz.

"Many of our society’s problems can be prevented or lessened with good nutrition,” said Ortiz. A proper diet, assisted by the WIC program, has been shown to improve birthweight, prevent illness and increase brain development. Well-fed students learn better in school. Low-income parents who have enough food can concentrate on learning or earning rather than finding their family’s next meal. Seniors who receive regular balanced meals can remain in their own homes.

The Assembly’s budget would help relieve overburdened pantries at churches and synagogues by strengthening both the WIC program, for pregnant women, infants, and young children, and senior home-delivered meal programs for the frail elderly. It also would provide additional dollars directly to food banks, pantries and soup kitchens to purchase items such as infant formula and fresh fruits and vegetables to supplement what they receive from donations. The Assembly supports buying New York farm products as part of that effort.

A recent survey by the NYC Coalition Against Hunger found that the demand for food is so strong that over 47,000 hungry people were turned away each month because soup kitchens and food pantries did not have the resources to help them. At the same time less than 50% of working New Yorkers eligible for Food Stamps are receiving them, and less than 30% of seniors who need home-delivered meals are being served.

Additional funding may be used to increase participation in the federal Food Stamp program by eligible working households so they don’t have to rely on donated food. According to Ortiz, "It is important to our local communities to make sure that this important federal program is effectively used to help stabilize households, protect children’s health and educational development, reduce the burden on our churches and other voluntary agencies and prevent working people from sliding back to the welfare rolls. I urge the Senate and Governor to join us in supporting these cost-effective investments in helping New Yorkers reach their potential."

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