New York – Report: Jewish Community May Bear The Brunt Of Proposed Food Stamp Cuts

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    File photo by Blake GumprechtNew York – A potential $16 billion cut in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program or SNAP may severely impact some 47 million Americans who receive food stamps, particularly those in the Jewish community.

    The Farm Bill, which funds SNAP, expired on September 30. Congress is in the process of debating a new version. The Senate is calling for a $4.5 billion reduction to SNAP over the course of 10 years, while the House is pushing for a $16 billion decrease over the same time period. If the House version passes, the number of SNAP recipients will be reduced by approximately 1.8 million people a year, according to figures provided by the Congressional Budget Office. It will also preclude states from extending SNAP to low-income people who do not fall within the federal income limits. Instead, the House has recommended giving block grants to states for SNAP, a measure which will likely reduce the number of enrollees.

    Modifications to the SNAP Program will have serious, adverse consequences on New York’s Jewish community. An estimated one in five Jewish households lives in poverty, especially in the Chassidic community, according to the 2011 UJA-Federation study. “If there are cuts, I really think people are going to feel it,” Huvi Schmerler, a nutrition program coordinator at the Borough Park-based nonprofit Nachas Health and Family Network, told The Forward (http://bit.ly/TrSfB0).

    In Borough Park alone, over a third of families with children collect SNAP benefits. Schmerler said her clients already struggle to survive on the benefits they get, and the cost of food in New York is generally higher than the national average. A study by the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness revealed that a family of six receives $952 monthly in SNAP benefits, but the minimum monthly grocery bill is $1,181. A 2011 USDA study found that nationwide, 90% of SNAP benefits are exhausted by the third week of the month.

    The disparity has forced families to seek food from alternative resources like Masbia Soup Kitchen. “Obviously they need more than what they get, because they end up here when the food stamps are used up,” remarked Alexander Rapaport, Masbia’s executive director.

    Critics of the SNAP Program say it creates a culture of dependency on the government, and many believe that deliberately having large families “constitutes voluntary poverty.” Others see it as a human rights issue. “It’s a disgrace that in the United States of America that we can’t adequately feed our populace, which includes many people who have contributed to the workforce,” said one social justice activist. “Should we expect people who have fallen through the cracks to go hungry?” he asked.


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