Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, visited two food pantries in Brooklyn and Staten Island, to meet with community stakeholders on the frontlines of feeding New Yorkers and to announce her bill, the Ensuring Nutrition for America’s Students Act. With food pantries across New York facing unprecedented and growing demand, and with schools set to reopen in just a few days, the bill will provide nutritional resources to families who have lost access to free or reduced lunches due to school closures caused by the pandemic. It would also extend the P-EBT program—which is set to expire on September 30, 2020—through the upcoming school year to ensure students have access to meals even if in person learning is disrupted. The proposed legislation would make the P-EBT program more responsive to these disruptions so that eligible students who miss any meals at school will receive benefits. Additionally, eligibility for P-EBT would extend in order to meet the growing needs of food insecure families. Statewide, roughly 2.1 million children are eligible for Pandemic EBT. The Ensuring Nutrition for America’s Students Act is endorsed by the Food Bank for NYC and Hunger Free America.
“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, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and Pandemic EBT benefits,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The incredible community leaders I have met with across the city can’t do it alone. They need our federal government to step up and find ways to catch the kids slipping through the cracks. Passing the Ensuring Nutrition for America’s Students Act will help us do that by extending Pandemic-EBT through the next academic school year, at the very least. I will keep working with my colleagues and reaching across the aisle to enact this program.”
“Between the economic fallout from this pandemic, and the school closures that have made it harder for children to get free or reduced-price meals, the work of our food pantries has never been more important. Fortunately, we have an incredible network of food pantries here on Staten Island, but we can’t ask them to do it alone. We have to make sure they have the resources they need to make sure no families fall through the cracks,” said Congressman Max Rose.
“We are still facing the gravest child hunger crisis in modern times, and it is unlikely to end any time soon. It’s highly troubling that, 108 days after the House passed extensive increases in domestic food aid, Majority Leader McConnell has refused to so much as schedule a Senate vote on that life-saving food assistance. It is imperative that the U.S. Senate heed Senator Gillibrand’s compassionate, common-sense call to extend and expand federal food benefits, especially Pandemic EBT benefits, during this time of grave national emergency,” said Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America.
“Food Bank For New York City and our network of soup kitchens and food pantries across the five boroughs are grateful to have a champion like Senator Gillibrand who understands fighting hunger requires more than just emergency food,” said Leslie Gordon, President & CEO of Food Bank For New York City. “Strengthening SNAP is essential as low-income people in our country face unprecedented economic and health fallout from COVID-19. We must ensure any relief package strengthens the entire social safety net and goes to those who need it most.”
“Vulnerable New Yorkers rely on SNAP to make ends meet,” said Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New York. “Catholic Charities will always assist New Yorkers in need, but COVID-19 and high unemployment have put many senior citizens and working families in dire financial straits. Now more than ever, strong SNAP benefits are critical to providing New York’s neediest with a measure of security. Nobody should have to choose between nutritious meals and keeping a roof over their heads. I extend my thanks to Senator Gillibrand for joining us today and applaud her efforts to combat food insecurity in New York.”
“We are immensely grateful to Senator Gillibrand for her visit today and for efforts to get SNAP benefits increased, and to ensure that people won’t go hungry,” said Sister Caroline Tweedy, Executive Director of St. John’s Bread and Life.
Tackling food insecurity continues to be a hallmark issue for Senator Gillibrand, who, since her first days in office, has led the fight to protect and expand access to healthy meals for children, families and seniors. Senators Gillibrand and Schumer were instrumental in obtaining approval for New York’s initial proposal for the P-EBT program, which has been successful in getting hungry children fed across New York State and the country. Gillibrand is an original co-sponsor of several pieces of legislation that would provide infrastructure, expand access to, and increase the availability of fresh and healthy meals to Americans in New York and across the country. Most recently, the senator introduced the Closing the Meal Gap Act, which would increase the baseline for SNAP benefits to better align with household needs, along with Senators Harris and Sanders. Gillibrand 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. Food banks would also be able to use these funds to pay for transportation, commodities, additional storage capacity and to hire additional staff. Gillibrand is the first senator from New York to serve on the Agriculture Committee in nearly forty years.
Yesterday, Gillibrand visited food pantries in the Bronx, Queens, and Washington Heights.