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SNAP funding cuts would overburden Food Bank for New York City, CEO says

The proposed $900 million cut in federal funding equates to one-third of SNAP benefits received by the city.

Proposed federal cuts to SNAP would

Proposed federal cuts to SNAP would "pretty much just decimate" the program, Food Bank for New York City CEO Margarette Purvis said. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

Food Bank for New York City officials said Thursday that proposed federal cuts to SNAP benefits, known as food stamps, would decimate the city’s soup kitchens and food pantries.

The projections come just days after the White House proposed several cuts, including a 30 percent reduction in SNAP funding and the creation of a “Harvest Box,” or a delivery of items such as peanut butter, canned foods, pasta, cereal and shelf-stable milk.

The city receives about $3 billion in SNAP benefits that allow New Yorkers to purchase food from grocers each year, said Margarette Purvis, CEO for the Food Bank for New York City. The cut would translate to about a $900 million loss.

“Our members are not supposed to be first stop,” Purvis said. “We’re supposed to be that last stop to support. But it is certainly not that we are an interchangeable entity, that’s just not possible.”

Purvis said the proposed cuts would “pretty much just decimate the program — I mean, that’s a third of the program.”

The budget cuts would also eliminate a program that provides seniors with food specific to their nutritional needs and get rid of SNAP’s nutritional education programing, said Triada Stampas, vice president of research and public affairs at the Food Bank.

“There are neighborhoods in our city where ... half the community is on SNAP,” Purvis said. “It means a decimation of a program that is relied upon by the poorest people here.”

Additionally, Stampas said the city’s food pantries and soup kitchens would not be able to keep up with the inevitable increased demand that would accompany the proposed cuts. In November 2013, Stampas said SNAP benefits were cut by 5.4 percent, and food pantries and soup kitchens noticed “an immediate and widespread increase in need.”

“And that need has not abated,” she added. “A 30 percent cut in SNAP cannot be made up for by charities.”

According to a new report by the city’s Food Bank, food pantries and soup kitchens throughout the city identified the idea of federal policy changes as the top threat to their operations.

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