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Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (not shown) and his staff volunteer at the Greater Boston Food Bank.
Food banks can't do it all.

Nearly half of New York City food pantries and soup kitchens ran out of some foods required for meals or pantry bags after November's cuts to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits went into effect. Before the cuts went into effect, many food pantry directors warned that they would not be able to make up the difference, and that's just what happened. A new survey from Food Bank for New York City finds that, among emergency food providers in the city:

  • 85% reported an overall increase in visitors in November 2013, as compared to November 2012, immediately following Super Storm Sandy.
  • 76% of food pantries and soup kitchens saw an increase in visitors in November 2013 compared to the previous two months, with nearly half (45%) reporting considerable increases in visitor traffic of more than 25%;
  • Nearly half (48%) of emergency food providers ran out of food required for meals or pantry bags, with 26% reporting having to turn people away due to insufficient food supplies;
  • Nearly one quarter (23%) of food pantries and soup kitchens reported having to reduce the total number of meals they otherwise provided[.]
Even before the benefit cuts, Food Bank for New York City found that:
... more than 40% of SNAP recipients across the five boroughs were already turning to food pantries and soup kitchens to keep food on the table as benefits failed to last the month. As the number of New Yorkers accessing emergency food has risen, Food Bank has also found that its network of emergency food providers has shrunk by 25%, a loss of 250 soup kitchens and food pantries, since the start of the recession in 2007.
These are horrific numbers. The set of things coming together—a recession that closed a large number of food pantries, nutrition assistance levels that left people still needing charitable aid ... and then a cut that left people needing even more help and strained food pantries to the breaking point—shouldn't happen in a wealthy nation. New York City does have a very high cost of living, but it's likely that emergency food providers across the country experienced similar increases in need following the SNAP cuts. Private charity cannot fill in for the government; if you didn't believe it before, you know it now. And yet Congress is considering more cuts.

(Via Think Progress)

Originally posted to Laura Clawson on Thu Jan 23, 2014 at 11:26 AM PST.

Also republished by Hunger in America, Kossacks for the Homeless Person, and Daily Kos.

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