Groups Seek Changes in NY Policy as Hunger Grows

ALBANY (AP) -

Advocacy groups are pushing for changes in New York policy to attack what they say is a rising tide of hunger among the working poor, children and the elderly while combating obesity and boosting farming.

The Hunger Action Network is pushing for expansion of food stamps, officially known as SNAP,  the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Meanwhile, AARP is asking the state to streamline its procedures to make it easier for older New Yorkers to get monthly SNAP cash. The benefit averages $170 a month, and AARP says as many as 500,000 older New Yorkers could qualify but aren’t applying for it.

The Hunger Action Network notes that the state has begun efforts to direct New York farm products to schools and government programs. But they say some efforts are stalled and obstacles need to be overcome. They argue that more state attention on farm-to-school efforts would also combat obesity.

“With obesity rates rising in a country where millions are starving, something clearly needs to be done to expand regular accessibility to adequate food amounts,” said Emily Manez, a researcher for a Hunger Action Network report released a week ago.

The efforts come as the Cuomo administration is developing its 2014-2015 budget. Hunger advocates were disappointed by the current budget which increased spending just 2 percent. But Cuomo and the Legislature gave the hunger advocates and progressive groups a major win in March by raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour, up from $7.25.

Cuomo and the Legislature have begun several programs including the Pride of N.Y. program, which promotes buying local and connecting farmers and vinters to the lucrative NYC restaurant market. But more food processing facilities are needed because of the state’s short growing season, which doesn’t coincide with most of the school year, the Hunger Action Network said.