Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, visited the George R. Staley Elementary School food pantry in Rome to advocate for her proposal to expand the Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) program as millions of New Yorkers struggle with food insecurity due to the pandemic. With food banks across New York facing unprecedented and growing demand, and school reopenings uncertain, the legislation would provide nutritional resources to families in Oneida County who have lost access to free or reduced lunches due to school closures. Statewide, roughly 2.1 million children are eligible for Pandemic EBT and more than half of K-12 students in Oneida County receive free or reduced-price school lunch. Senator Gillibrand’s proposed legislation, the Ensuring Nutrition for America’s Students Act, would address this need by extending the P-EBT program through the current school year and expanding eligibility to ensure low-income children who have been previously left out of the program have access to nutritious meals throughout the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to calling for an extension of the P-EBT program, Gillibrand is urging Congress to include a vital 15% increase in SNAP benefits in the next coronavirus relief package to help New Yorkers afford groceries and stay fed.
“This pandemic and economic crisis have left people sick and scared, hurting and hungry. Through no fault of their own, people have lost their jobs, their paychecks, and their ability to put food on the table. That’s why it’s critical that the next relief package prioritizes expanding SNAP and P-EBT benefits through these uncertain times,” said Senator Gillibrand. “As the number of families facing food insecurity continues to grow, extending these programs would provide a vital lifeline and prevent more hungry children from slipping through the cracks. Keeping Americans fed should not be a partisan issue and I will continue reaching across the aisle to include these critical proposals in the next relief package.”
“With all of the uncertainties that students, families, and communities are facing, both in the past 5 months and the future; food service and insecurity needs to remain at the forefront of everything that we are doing as leaders. We are extremely grateful for Senator Gillibrand’s continued effort to address concerns related to keeping our students and community fed. Her desire to continuously raise awareness and provide support in addressing food equity issues will only benefit all of us in the long run,” said Rome City School District Superintendent Peter Blake.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Senator Gillibrand has fought for the P-EBT program to feed nearly 2.1 million eligible children in New York State. While the program has been successful in feeding hungry children across the state its authorization is set to expire on September 30, 2020 despite uncertainty of whether students will return to in person learning this fall. The Ensuring Nutrition for America’s Students Act would extend the P-EBT program through the upcoming school year to ensure students have access to meals even if in person learning is disrupted. The legislation would make the P-EBT program more responsive to these disruptions so that eligible students who miss meals due to reduced attendance or hours will receive benefits. Additionally, eligibility for P-EBT would extend in order to meet the growing needs of food insecure families.
In addition to the extension of the P-EBT program, Senator Gillibrand is continuing to push for a vital increase in maximum SNAP benefits by 15% and expanded eligibility for the SNAP program so that more Americans have options to put nutritious food on the table. Before the coronavirus crisis began, SNAP was providing food assistance to 38 million Americans and more than 41% of SNAP recipients are in families with children. In New York 13% of rural families depend on SNAP while 15% of those in metro areas rely on the program. Although the need for SNAP has drastically increased as many Americans have lost their jobs and are struggling to put food on the table due to the COVID-19 crisis, an increase or expansion of the program has not been included in previous coronavirus response packages. Senator Gillibrand’s proposals will not only increase SNAP benefits for each family, they will expand eligibility by removing harmful barriers to access, and will put healthy and nutritious food on the table for families in need.
Senator Gillibrand has been a leader in the fight against food insecurity and has continuously led the charge to protect and expand access to healthy meals for children, seniors, and veterans since her first days in office. She continued to advocate for hungry New Yorkers throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Gillibrand originally announced the Ensuring Nutrition for America’s Students Act last month during a visit to FeedMore WNY in Buffalo. She has also visited food pantries across the five boroughs to advocate for the legislation. Earlier this summer, Gillibrand introduced the Closing the Meal Gap Act, which would increase the baseline for SNAP benefits to better align with household needs and also introduced the Food Bank Access to Farm Fresh Produce Act, which would create a new block grant program to allow food banks to purchase crops directly from farmers.