New York Post vs. the economically disadvantaged
Governor Spitzer's rule change to allow more poor families to qualify for food stamps is a lifesaver for poor families working their way out of poverty who still need support to survive on their meager income.
Yesterday's, New York Post editorial carelessly gave voice to the misinformation that underpins social welfare policy.
The Post writes, "Between the existing food stamp program, local food banks, faith-based pantries and the public-schools' three-meals-and-a-snack feeding programs, nobody of sound mind goes hungry in New York."
As Hunger Action of New York State notes, "Over two million New Yorkers rely on Emergency Food Programs (EFPs), or soup kitchens and food pantries, each year. More than one million people in New York City rely on EFPs each year." The churches, non-profits and community groups who run so many are strained to meet the need. Yet while demand for emergency food is increasing, the Food Stamp Program is sorely underutilized. Only 53% of eligible people participate in the program in NYS. Over 75% of the families using Emergency Food Programs are below 130% of poverty and meet the criteria for food stamps.
Over 80% of families receiving food stamps are families with children. My experience working with people receiving public assistance shows that $224 in food stamps for a family of three does not meet their critical nutritional needs. Education and work take energy - energy that food provides. The Governor's plan to make applying for the food stamps people already qualify for simpler is central to moving people out of poverty. Poor people have a lot to do - taking care of children, working, going to school or getting training and being forced to jump through a lot of bureaucratic hoops to keep your benefits detracts from your ability to do what it takes to move your life forward.
The city, state and federal government has a stake in helping families get healthy and a role in expanding funds for food stamps -- even if The New York Post does not.