Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand visited the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW) to help pack healthy meals for New Yorkers struggling to make ends meet during the coronavirus pandemic. CHOW provides nutritious food to the hungry in Broome County through its network of over 100 partner agencies, including food pantries, soup kitchens, and community meal programs. Every month, CHOW serves the community with over 175,000 pounds of food. Gillibrand toured the facility alongside Director of CHOW, Les Aylesworth.
“Food banks have been a critical lifeline for New Yorkers during the hunger crisis caused by COVID-19 and I’m so thankful for CHOW’s work in this community,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Food banks have seen demand for help skyrocket during the pandemic and we need to support their fight to protect Americans from food shortages. Legislation like the Food Bank Access to Farm Fresh Produce Act would alleviate the strain on food banks and our food supply by cutting out middlemen to deliver fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables from farms to food banks like CHOW. These are challenging times, but groups like CHOW remind us that there is no challenge New Yorkers can’t overcome if we work together.”
During the COVID-19 crisis, more than 30 million Americans have lost their jobs and many are struggling to put food on the table. According to hunger relief nonprofit Feeding America, nearly 100% of food banks, including CHOW, have reported an increase in demand for food assistance during the pandemic, with an average increase of 59%. Since the pandemic they have been providing 27,000 meals a day to families in Broome County, five times their pre-pandemic average. Senator Gillibrand is fighting for legislation to support food banks during this crisis and find innovative ways to meet the exponential increase in demand.
While millions of newly unemployed and food insecure Americans have joined the lines for food banks, farmers have been forced to let fields of produce rot because restaurants, hotels, schools, and other food service entities have closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Senator Gillibrand previously introduced the Food Bank Access to Farm Fresh Produce Act to address these disruptions in the food supply chain and to directly connect farms to food banks as they serve the surge of jobless Americans. The Food Bank Access to Farm Fresh Produce Act would give food banks the power to purchase excess specialty crops — including fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, and dried fruits, which are easily stored and processed by food banks — directly from farmers. The legislation would fund $8 billion in block grants to food banks in the top vegetable and fruit producing states, such as New York, the 15th largest vegetable and fruit producing state.
Senator Gillibrand has also fought to alleviate the pressure on food banks by expanding access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Pandemic EBT program (P-EBT). In April, Gillibrand announced the Closing the Meal Gap Act of 2020 to expand and strengthen SNAP benefits for families struggling to make ends meet and she has pushed Congress to include SNAP expansion in the next coronavirus relief package. The P-EBT program was authorized under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, however, the administration delayed approving state requests to operate the program, including New York. Following Gillibrand’s successful call on the Trump administration to approve New York’s request, the administration expedited approval.