Foodlink joined is food banking colleagues from around the state on Wednesday for a day of meetings with state assemblymembers and senators about Feeding New York State’s budget priorities for 2020.
Foodlink is one of nine food banks that comprise Feeding New York State (formerly the Food Bank Association of New York State). The top priority for the association is adequate funding for the Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP). This line item in the state Department of Health’s budget provides vital funding to food banks — and their members — across the state.
The food banks’ argument is simple cause and effect. SNAP cuts proposed by the federal government — one of which is already scheduled to take effect April 1 — will undoubtedly force a strain on food banks and the entire emergency food system. Feeding NYS is advocating for the state to restore $500,000 in funding that was removed in the governor’s budget, and another $6 million to offset the increased need that will result from thousands of New Yorkers losing their SNAP benefits in 2020.
Feeding NYS is also pushing for a initiative to streamline its sourcing of state-grown produce and dairy. In a proposal to the state Department of Agriculture and Markets, Feeding NYS requested $6 million to support local farmers, and gain efficiencies in distributing more dairy and produce within the emergency food system.
Foodlink discussed these proposals, and others, with three members of the assembly and two senators. They were: Assemblymember Harry Bronson (Rochester), Assemblymember Stephen Hawley (Monroe, Orleans, Genesee), Assemblymember Brian Manktelow (Wayne), Senator Joe Robach (Rochester) and Senator George Borello (Allegany, Livingston).
Prior to the meetings, Feeding NYS hosted a morning meeting with other legislators that included Assemblywoman Michaelle Solage, Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, and Senator Liz Krueger.
Sen. Krueger’s story was fascinating. Her origins are in food banking, having started as a volunteer with the Cleveland Food Bank in the early 80s. It wasn’t too long before she was recommended to lead efforts to launch a program to distribute surplus U.S. commodities to the growing number of food banks (back then, only 6 states had food banks). The program is now known as The Emergency Food Assistance Program — a massive USDA program that provides 200 food banks nationwide with about 15-20% of their food.
Krueger then went on to become a founding member of The Food Bank of New York City, before moving on to roles as an anti-poverty advocate, the Associate Director of the Community Food Resource Center (CFRC), and then a state representative for District 28 – the east side of Manhattan.