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Federal officials still debating how to feed the hungry

May 20, 2020 1:30 pm
Emilie Munson is reporting for the Times Union nearly 300,000 people in New York have applied for food stamps during the past 10 weeks. A hotline providing information on how to find food assistance has recorded a tenfold increase in calls since the coronavirus pandemic struck upstate New York. And many food pantries have doubled the number of people they serve. As unemployment grows during the crisis, hunger is increasing nationwide, but Democrats and Republicans are at odds over ways to help. Democrats want federal food assistance benefits to be expanded. Republicans argue the current levels of food assistance benefits are sufficient, but have ideas on ways to feed needy Americans. One plan calls for the federal government to spend $3 billion to buy unsold meat, produce and dairy from farmers and then distribute it to communities in 25 pound boxes. In a similar approach, members of the New York congressional delegation including, U.S. Reps. Paul Tonko, Antonio Delgado and Elise Stefanik urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture in April to match farmers with unsold milk to food donation programs. In 2019, 35.7 million Americans used food stamps and the program cost $60.3 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In February 2020, the number of Americans using the program rose to 36.8 million. Since February demand for food stamps in New York has skyrocketed. "We are concerned about seeing a crush of people who become eligible for SNAP when federal unemployment benefits end," said Sherry Tomasky, director of communications for Hunger Solutions New York, an organization that helps people apply for food assistance. "It is a dynamic that we want to keep our eye on very closely so we are prepared to meet a demand that could possibly come at that time." Read the full story in the Times Union.
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