Reform Jewish Voice of New York State


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Protect Anti-Hunger Programs in New York

Background

In 2010, nearly 2.8 million New Yorkers lived in poverty—14% of all New Yorkers—and 12.4% of residents struggled with food insecurity, meaning they were unsure about when they would next receive a meal. In Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester and Albany, poverty rates are above 25% and over 2.3 million residents statewide rely on emergency food assistance annually. The number of New York State households participating in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has increased since the recession—to almost 2.9 million households.

In addition to working with beneficiaries of federal anti-hunger programs including SNAP, the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program (WIC) and the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs, New York State operates the Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP), a program that provides emergency food programs at regional food banks and other organizations with lines of credit. HPNAP also includes the Operations Support and Equipment grant, which funds emergency food programs for operations and equipment expenses. HPNAP is managed by the NY State Department of Health. The program was funded at $31.9 million in fiscal year 2007-2008, but only at $28 million in fiscal year 2012-2013, despite a rapid increase in poverty and need for emergency food programs following the recession.

Jewish Values

The Torah and Jewish tradition are explicit in the command that we feed the hungry and help eradicate hunger from our society. Leviticus 23:22 tells us, "And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger. I the Eternal am your God." In Isaiah 58:7, God commands us to "share [our] bread with the hungry and bring the homeless into [our] house."

Our Jewish tradition further teaches us that we must fight hunger not individually, but rather by working together as a community. The Talmud explains that each Jewish community must establish a public fund to provide food for the hungry, and our sages explain that feeding the hungry is one of our most important responsibilities on earth: "When you are asked in the world to come, ‘What was your work?’ and you answer: ‘I fed the hungry,’ you will be told: ‘This is the gate of the Lord, enter into it, you who have fed the hungry’" (Midrash to Psalm 118:17).

Take Action!

Contact your member of the Assembly and Senate and urge them to support increased funding for HPNAP in the state budget.

For more information about hunger in New York State, contact Legislative Associate Molly Benoit at (202) 387-2800. 

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