Area food assistance providers to receive state funding

OBSERVER Staff Report

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced $4.5 million in grants to help 46 organizations serving 2,600 emergency food providers throughout New York state respond to an increased need for food assistance following the recent reduction in federal SNAP benefits that has impacted 3.1 million New Yorkers.

Area organizations that will be receiving grant money include: the Food Bank of the Southern Tier ($182,285), the Food Bank of Western New York ($318,258), Cattaraugus Community Action ($17,448) and Chautauqua County Rural Ministry, Inc. ($22,219).

Cuomo also encourages New Yorkers and businesses to donate food or volunteer at a local food bank this holiday season.

“With the holiday season upon us, New York state is stepping up to help food banks and soup kitchens across the state stock their shelves and feed those in need,” he said. “These state grants are aimed at filling the gap caused by the recent cuts in federal SNAP benefits and provide a boost to vital food assistance programs, to help provide relief to impacted New Yorkers. This time of year is also about celebrating the spirit of giving, so I encourage all New Yorkers to join our efforts by donating food or volunteering their time at local food banks and soup kitchens. A little can go a long way, and I encourage all who can to help those less fortunate this year.”

Overall, the number of emergency meals reported for 2013 is trending at approximately 13 percent more than the same time last year, according to data provided to the State’s Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program. Recent federal cuts to the SNAP program will eliminate a total of $302 million of annual SNAP benefits in New York. This year’s increased demand for emergency food has resulted in emergency food providers struggling to keep their shelves full.

The $4.5 million in grants represent a 15 percent increase in the state’s funding to food banks and can provide approximately 2.8 million meals. These grants will provide food banks, soup kitchens and food pantries with the immediate resources they need to feed those seeking assistance this holiday season.

This holiday season, Cuomo also encourages New Yorkers and businesses to help meet the increased demand for emergency food by donating or volunteering at their local food pantry or church, which are supported in large part by private donations.

Items in highest demand by emergency food providers include: Canned meat (chicken, turkey, tuna fish, canned chili with beans; lower sodium versions preferred); peanut butter and lower sodium canned beans (particularly kidney and pinto, due to the high protein content); canned vegetables (corn, peas, carrots, green beans, white and sweet potatoes; lower sodium versions preferred); canned fruit (peaches, apricots, oranges; packed in fruit juice); shelf-stable 1 percent or fat-free fluid milk (UHT box pack); canned pasta meals containing seven or more grams of protein per serving (i.e. spaghetti-meatballs; lower sodium versions preferred); cereal containing three or more grams of fiber per serving; pasta (whole wheat and whole grain varieties appreciated); and rice and instant brown rice.

Cuomo said New York has taken significant steps in the past three years to extend food assistance to New Yorkers in need. In 2011, Cuomo launched the FreshConnect program, which brings fresh, locally grown food to underserved communities. The FreshConnect program includes projects such as youth markets, delivery of products to low-income housing facilities and new initiatives at traditional farmers’ markets.

Cuomo also ended the finger imaging requirement for SNAP benefit applicants and recipients, simplifying the application process and removing a barrier to reducing hunger for children and adults.