Last year, the city estimated 1.2 million New Yorkers were food insecure with a rising concern for older Black and brown adults heavily impacted by inflation and the rising costs of food.
Emergency SNAP benefits were slated to end on March 1, leaving millions of older adults at risk of losing food benefits. During the pandemic, Congress passed a law to temporarily increase SNAP or an enrollment allotment, but now they will go back to being based on one’s income and household size, reported AARP.
Some could see a reduction in benefits from $250 to $90 a month, said AARP. So far 18 states had opted to end the boosted SNAP benefits before March: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wyoming.
According to data from the New York City Food Policy Report 2022, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program feeds over 1.6 million people on average each month. SNAP recipients aged 65 and older averaged out to be over 360,000 each month, said the report.
The city funds 276 senior centers and 22 home delivery meal programs.
Additionally, the Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP), which provides emergency food pantries and community kitchens, distributed 17,755,087 lbs of food last year, said the report. Since the beginning of 2023 the program has shifted and expanded into the Community Food Connection (CFC) to help continue to serve facilities.
In a joint city council hearing on Wed, April 19, led-by Councilmembers Crystal Hudson and Deputy Speaker Diana Ayala. They sought to address the lack of consistent access to affordable and nutritious food for seniors as well as examined how food assistance programs like SNAP and CFC are performing.
“Many older New Yorkers do not know where they’re next meal is coming from. They face a crisis for access to healthy and nutritious meals,” said Council Member Darlene Mealy. “Instead of continually underfunding our conjugal meals programs and providers, we must make an inflation adjustment in the budget.”
RELATED: Food insecurity, hunger expected to soar after cuts to extra SNAP benefits
The Department of Social Services (DSS) testified that the city has expanded its more culturally sensitive meals to avoid food waste and increased SNAP outreach, even as supply chain issues and inflation have made it more difficult to keep pantries and community kitchens stocked. DSS said that previously available federal and state emergency food assistance funding from the pandemic are reduced or ending all together.
“We value the council’s support and advocacy in reaching out to partners across government to highlight the importance of tackling food insecurity and mobilizing resources to meet neighborhood’s needs,” said DSS.
DSS also confirmed that benefits processing is still experiencing a backlog due to the high demand during the pandemic, causing longer wait times.
In New York State, seniors and disabled seniors should be able to access a “simplified SNAP-only application” called the Elderly Simplified Application Project (ESAP). A senior can be eligible for ESAP if all people in the household are over 60 and have no income coming in.
On average there are 42,000 general SNAP applications a month, said DSS, but they don’t necessarily track ESAP applications.
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about politics for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting https://bit.ly/amnews1.