Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, visited three food pantries in Queens, the Bronx and Washington Heights, to meet with community stakeholders on the frontlines of feeding New Yorkers and to announce her bill, the Ensuring Nutrition for America’s Student’s 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.
“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 met with today 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 Student 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.”
“As communities around the nation continue to rebuild and recover from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it remains critical that we continue our support of area food pantries across New York and our collective efforts to assist struggling families in need,” said Congressman Adriano Espaillat(NY-13). “Food insecurity impacts far too many families throughout our communities and the pandemic has only exacerbated the challenges these families face. Extending SNAP benefits will be key in our work to ensuring residents do not face further barriers when providing food for their families during these challenging times. I am proud to stand with Senator Gillibrand today in support of the Ensuring Nutrition for America’s Students Act to help provide access to vital resources to families affected by the pandemic.”
“At a time when more and more communities are experiencing food insecurity in our homes, we have to do more to guarantee access to supplemental benefits and food throughout NYC and our country. I applaud Senator Gillibrand’s efforts to help make sure our families have access to these essential resources not just during the COVID-19 global health pandemic, but going forward,” said Congressman Jose Serrano (NY-15).
“This pandemic has caused many Americans to lose their jobs and to go hungry. As we have seen today, groups that serve the hungry in New York are seeing people they have never seen before and in numbers they have never dealt with before,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “We need relief from the federal government to ensure that families don’t go hungry during this unprecedented crisis. I thank Senator Gillibrand for her efforts to stem the crisis of food insecurity during this pandemic through the Ensuring Nutrition for America’s Students Act.”
“COVID-19 has economically devastated our poorest communities, and with schools eliminating free and reduced lunches, it is important that we provide a strong food supply chain that is steady and reliable for those who need it most,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “I want to thank Sen. Gillibrand for tackling this problem by advocating for the ‘Ensuring Nutrition for America’s Students Act’ in Congress. This important piece of legislation will provide food accessibility for our most vulnerable communities during this global crisis.”
“Queens was the epicenter of the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic and has been disproportionately impacted by the resulting economic downturn that has left too many of our borough’s families facing food insecurity,” said Queens Borough President Sharon Lee. “The proposed Ensuring Nutrition for America’s Students Act announced by Senator Gillibrand would help students and families in Queens County and across the nation have access to the vital food assistance that so many need during this crisis. Thank you, Senator Gillibrand, for your continued efforts to make sure no one in this country goes hungry.”
“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.”
“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.”
“A big thanks to Senator Gillibrand for visiting with us. Our small local pantry has grown from serving 500 families one day a week to serving close to 1,500 families a day, six days a week. The increase has been staggering, and it has been difficult to keep enough food in the building to handle the additional demand. Any help Senator Gillibrand and congress can offer through legislation to help combat this new level of food insecurity would be amazing to continue our work of feeding our neighbors,” said Pastor Andrew Marko, Evangel Christian Church
“The residents of the Mott Haven community have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This community is now facing an increasingly high rate of unemployment and food insecurities, in addition to being one of the communities where the residents contracted COVID-19 at alarming rates. Abraham House is committed to providing vital services and support to the community, and we commend Senator Gillibrand on working toward alleviating these community concerns,” said Althea Brooks, Abraham House Executive Director.
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.
Tomorrow, Gillibrand will visit food pantries in Staten Island and Brooklyn.