A drive-through Island Harvest food distribution at Stotzky Park in Riverhead in April 2020 provided food to hundreds of local families in need. File photo: Denise Civiletti

Our reporting this week about a statewide campaign by food banks to fight the governor’s proposed funding cut to New York’s Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program underscores, once again, the dire needs of food-insecure individuals and families.

COVERAGE: Food banks alarmed by governor’s proposal to cut funding, as hunger and food insecurity remain higher than pre-pandemic levels

Low income working families struggling to survive on Long Island had trouble putting food on the table before the pandemic. They were hit hardest during the pandemic and have struggled even more since the pandemic, as inflation drives the cost of food and essentials upward.

People who run the food banks that help feed Long Islanders in need and the people who stock and operate local food pantries understand the rising needs of low-income households. They document the trends in reports they must file to be eligible for state funding. Gov. Kathy Hochul’s $227 billion executive budget demonstrates that the administration either isn’t paying attention or doesn’t care.

With the temporary pandemic boost in federal SNAP benefits coming to an end in March, and the number of people in need rising, Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program funding is even more essential. Cutting funding for this program by about 40% — making it harder for food banks to supply the local pantries that help feed the hungry — ignores the reality lived by too many people even in this, one of New York’s most affluent regions.

Two adults who each work 40 hours a week in a minimum wage job, earning $15 per hour, have a gross monthly income considered too high to be eligible for SNAP benefits to help feed a family of four with two dependent children. They would have a gross income of $4,800 per month, which is expected to cover rent, heat and utilities, food, clothing and living expenses. Let that sink in.

SNAP benefits, formerly known as “food stamps,” do not fill the need even when a family is eligible. For example, a family of four with a gross monthly income of $4,400, rent and utility expenses of $2,000 and no child care expenses, are eligible for SNAP benefits of $128 per month.

Is it any wonder that food banks and pantries play such a crucial role in feeding low-income families?

We urge you to take a moment to advocate for the restoration of this essential funding. Join the food banks in their email campaign to lobby for restoring the funding. The email form can be accessed here. Then, call the governor’s office (518-474-8390) and our local state representatives (Assembly Member Jodi Giglio, Assembly Member Fred Thiele and State Senator Anthony Palumbo) and ask them to support this funding.

Editorials are the opinion of RiverheadLOCAL and are written collaboratively by Denise Civiletti, Katie Morosky and Alek Lewis.

RiverheadLOCAL welcomes letters to the editor. We don’t publish anonymous letters, so please include your full name, hamlet of residence, email address and a daytime phone number where we can reach you for confirmation or clarification. Submit your letter here.

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