October 26, 2001
Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy
(518) 455-5203
Food Aid Restored to Hungry Families and Seniors

(Albany, NY) Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D-Brooklyn), Chair of the Assembly Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy, was pleased to announce the Assembly's commitment to providing better nutrition for hungry children, families and seniors. The final budget agreement will free up $12 million for emergency food programs that is sorely needed by communities where the number of unemployed are growing, families are hitting time limits on federal welfare, and food pantries are having to turn away hungry people. The budget will also assure extra funding for the WIC program, providing nutrition services for pregnant women, infants and children.

"This is the third year in a row we have targeted additional food assistance money for these programs. Although it is not as much as last year it was the best we could do given the State's fiscal realities and should be welcomed by the volunteers feeding our needy citizens. 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-birth weight 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.

The budget will 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 budget language 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.

According to Ortiz, "After the World Trade Center disaster I have seen laid-off hotel and restaurant workers come to my office needing help. Many of them are hard working immigrants who are not eligible for most federal assistance programs such as Food Stamps. This funding will help emergency food programs meet some of these families' needs. However, in my role on national legislative committees I will also be traveling to Washington to fight to restore immigrants to the Food Stamp program and make sure that federal programs are adequate to meet the needs of all New Yorkers as we face severe economic dislocations. I do not want to send any more children to soup kitchens for their next meal."

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