CITY HARVEST: FOOD FIGHT

As public assistance programs face peril, New York City’s largest food rescue organization, City Harvest, faces a renewed fight against hunger.

Aired on September 27, 2019. 

TRANSCRIPT

> THIS SEGMENT IS PART OF OUR CHASING THE DREAM INITIATIVE ON POVERTY AND OPPORTUNITY IN AMERICA.

EVERY DAY NEARLY 1.2 MILLION NEW YORKERS INCLUDING ONE IN FIVE CHILDREN STRUGGLE TO PUT FOOD ON THE TABLE.

THAT'S ACCORDING TO CITY HARVEST, THE NONPROFIT THAT SERVES AS THE CITY'S LARGEST FOOD RESCUE ORGANIZATION.

NOW, THE ORGANIZATION IS TAKING THE FIGHT TO END HUNGER IN NEW YORK TO WASHINGTON.

SPECIFICALLY, THEY ARE SOUNDING THE ALARM ON RECENT ACTIONS BY THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION THAT THEY SAY WILL RESULT IN THOUSANDS OF NEW YORKERS LOSING ACCESS TO VITAL PUBLIC BENEFITS.

JOINING ME NOW WITH THE DETAILS JEROME NATHANIEL ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF POLICY AND GOVERNMENT RELATIONS AT CITY HARVEST.

JE JEROME, NICE TO HAVE YOU HERE.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

LET ME START OFF BY DESCRIBING CITY HARVEST AND HOW IT GOT STARTED AND WHAT IT DOES.

WE ARE A FOOD RESCUE ORGANIZATION.

ONE OF THE LARGEST IN NEW YORK CITY.

THIS YEAR WE RESCUED 64 MILLION POUNDS OF PERFECTLY EDIBLE FOOD FROM FOOD RETAILERS, FARMERS, SCHOOLS DOING CAN DRIVES, YOU NAME IT AND REDISTRIBUTING IT TO A NETWORK OF PANTRIES, SOUP KITCHENS AND SHELTERS THAT SERVICE THE FOOD.

IT IS DESCRIBED AS A FOOD RESCUE ORGANIZATION.

SPECIFICALLY, EXACTLY WHAT DO YOU DO THEN IN TERMS OF RESCUING FOOD?

SO, WE HAVE A FLEET OF TRUCKS THAT YOU MIGHT HAVE SEEN THAT SAID CITY HARVEST THAT ARE FLOATING AROUND THE FIVE BOROUGHS AND PICKING UP PERFECTLY EDIBLE FOOD IT MIGHT BE THE LABEL OR SURPLUS OR OVERORDERED OR SOME SORT OF MIX UP WITH THE ORDER AND WE'RE RESCUING THAT AT THE END OF THE DAY AT PLACES LIKE STARBUCKS, FARMERS MARKETS AND OUR DRIVERS ARE PICKING UP FROM THOSE DONORS AND GOING STRAIGHT TO THE SOUP KITCHENS AND SHELTERS THAT ARE DIRECTLY SERVICING SOME 1.2 MILLION NEW YORKERS.

IN THE PAST THAT FOOD MIGHT JUST BE DISCARDED.

IT WOULD, UNFORTUNATELY, GONE TO WASTE AND CONTRIBUTED TO THAT LARGE VOLUME OF WASTE THAT WE SEE PERFECTLY EDIBLE FOOD.

LET'S TALK ABOUT SOME OF THE CONCERNS NOW THAT I MENTIONED IN THE INTRODUCTION.

CONCERNS THAT CITY HARVEST AND OTHER ORGANIZATIONS HAVE.

I WILL FOCUS ON A COUPLE OF PROGRAMS HERE.

TELL ME WHAT THE PROGRAMS ARE ABOUT AND THEN TELL ME WHAT THE CONCERNS ARE.

ONE IS REFERRED TO AS SNAP.

WHAT IS THAT?

THE SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM.

IT WAS FORMALLY KNOWN AS FOOD STAMPS.

ESSENTIALLY LOW-INCOME FAMILIES CAN APPLY FOR S.N.A.P. AT THEIR LOCAL DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES AND IF THEY'RE WITHIN A CERTAIN INCOME RANGE, JUST SLIGHTLY ABOVE THE POVERTY LEVEL, THEN THEY WOULD RECEIVE MONTHLY BENEFIT TO SHOP AT THEIR LOCAL GROCERY STORES AND FARMERS MARKETS.

WHAT ARE THE PROPOSALS COMING OUT OF WASHINGTON THAT HAVE CAUSED THIS CONCERN FOR YOU?

YEAH, SO, THERE'S REALLY TWO THAT CITY HARVEST AND A LOT OF SIMILAR ORGANIZATIONS ARE REALLY ADVOCATING TO PROTECT FAMILIES AGAINST.

ONE OF THOSE IS LIMITATIONS ON ELIGIBILITY FOR THE S.N.A.P.

PROGRAM.

AND WHAT THAT LOOKS LIKE IS IT WOULD LOWER THAT INCOME LIMIT OR THE AMOUNT OF MONEY THAT YOU'RE ALLOWED TO MAKE FOR THE YEAR AND STILL BE ELIGIBLE FOR S.N.A.P.

THEY CALL THAT CATEGORICAL ELIGIBILITY.

TALK ABOUT HOW MANY FOLKS HERE IN NEW YORK, OBVIOUS LY AN ESTIMATE, BUT HOW MANY FOLKS HERE IN NEW YORK MIGHT BE ADVERSELY AFFECTED IF THOSE CHANGES, IN FACT, BECOME EFFECTIVE.

I THINK IT'S HELPFUL TO LOOK AT IT IN THE BROADER CONTEXT OF T . WE CONSIDER IT THE FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE AGAINST HUNGER AND GOES ABOVE AND BEYOND THE EMERGENCY FOOD SYSTEM.

JUST RECENTLY THE USDA WHICH ADMINISTERS THE S.N.A.P. PROGRAM ESTIMATED THAT S.N.A.P. LIFTED THREE MILLION AMERICANS OUT OF POVERTY.

WHAT THIS DOES IS THREATEN TO TAKE AWAY S.N.A.P. FROM 3.1 MILLION AMERICANS.

IT UNDOES THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE PROGRAM.

HERE IN NEW YORK IT'S BEEN ESTIMATED ON THE STATE LEVEL THAT ROUGHLY 80,000 PLUS PEOPLE MIGHT LOSE THEIR S.N.A.P.

BENEFITS AND THAT'S HONESTLY A MODEST ESTIMATE BECAUSE IT'S REALLY HARD TO GET AN EXACT NUMBER BECAUSE THE WAY THAT THESE RESTRICTIONS WORK IS THEY ALSO LOOK AT YOUR ASSETS.

SO, IF YOU HAVE A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF MONEY IN SAVINGS, WHICH WE DON'T HAVE A RECORD OF WHAT IS EVERYONE'S SAVINGS RIGHT NOW, THAT MIGHT IMPACT YOUR ABILITY TO CONTINUE TO RECEIVE S.N.A.P.

UNDER THIS ALTERNATION.

ONE EXAMPLE OF A POPULATION THAT WILL BE AFFECTED IS SENIOR POPULATION.

IF YOU'RE OVER THE AGE OF 60 AND ON A FIXED INCOME, YOU MIGHT REALLY RELY ON YOUR 401(k) OR YOUR RETIREMENT.

WHAT THIS RESTRICTION DOES, IT KIND OF DESCENTVENT VISE SAVING MONEY.

IF YOU HAVE MORE THAN $3,000 IN YOUR SAVING ACCOUNT AND YOU ARE AGE 60, YOU MIGHT NOT BE ELIGIBLE FOR S.N.A.P.

THEY SAY YOU NEED TO EXHAUST YOUR SAVINGS ACCOUNT BEFORE YOU'RE ABLE TO USE THIS PROGRAM THAT YOUR TAX DOLLARS HAVE FUNDED.

THAT'S FOR THE SENIOR POPULATION.

WHERE A LOT OF THE IRONY LIES, IT REALLY IMPACTS WORKING FAMILIES.

SO YOU COULD TAKE AN EXAMPLE OF A SINGLE WORKING PARENT WITH TWO CHILDREN.

LET'S SAY THEY MAKE $14.50 AN HOUR AND RECEIVE S.N.A.P.

BENEFITS.

SO, FULL TIME THEY WOULD STILL BE ELIGIBLE FOR S.N.A.P. BECAUSE THEY'RE BELOW THAT 150% GROSS INCOME LIMIT.

LET'S SAY A 50 CENT RAISE WOULD MAKE THEM LOSE ALL OF THEIR BENEFITS BECAUSE THEY WOULD BE OVER THAT 150% INCOME LIMIT.

WHICH, BY THE WAY, IS UNIQUE TO NEW YORK CITY BECAUSE WE HAVE A HIGHER INCOME LIMIT THAN THE REST OF THE COUNTRY BECAUSE OF THE COST OF LIVING HERE.

THERE'S ANOTHER AREA OF CONCERN REFERRED TO AS PUBLIC CHARGE AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN ABOUT THE PROPOSALS?

THE PUBLIC CHARGE IS DEFINITELY A HUGE ISSUE, ESPECIALLY HERE IN NEW YORK CITY WHICH HAS, OF COURSE, A VERY DIVERSE POPULATION THAT WE PRIDE OURSELVES ON.

IT'S ESTIMATED THAT THE LOOMING PUBLIC CHARGE WHICH, UNFORTUNATELY, IS SCHEDULED TO GO IN EFFECT ON OCTOBER 15th COULD AFFECT SOME 475,000 NEW YORK CITY RESIDENTS THAT HAVE STATUSES AND SORT OF IN A NUTSHELL OF THE QUICK PITCH FOR PUBLIC CHARGE IS THAT IT'S REALLY 900 PAGES OF CONFUSION.

IT'S A 900-PAGE RULE THAT BASICALLY SAYS THAT IF YOU ARE IN NEED OF CERTAIN GOVERNMENT SERVICES LIKE S.N.A.P. AND YOU'RE TRYING TO ADJUST YOUR STATUS LET'S SAY APPLY FOR A GREEN CARD, THEN THAT MIGHT IMPACT YOUR ABILITY TO GET THAT GREEN CARD.

SO, IT'S REALLY SORT OF SCARING MIXED STATUS HOUSEHOULDS FOR APPLYING AND, AGAIN, THEIR TAX DOLLARS PAY FOR.

IN NEW YORK CITY ACCORDING TO THE MAYOR'S OFFICE ON IMMIGRANT AFFAIRS, WE ALREADY SAW THAT AN ESTIMATED 25,000 IMMIGRANT HOUSEHOLDS HAVE EITHER DISENROLLED FROM THE S.N.A.P.

PROGRAM OR OPTED NOT TO CONTINUE THEIR BENEFITS BECAUSE OF ALL THE MISINFORMATION OUT THERE AND AS A NONPROFIT AND ADVOCATE, WE'RE LEANING ON THE MAYOR'S OFFICE TO KIND OF COMBAT ALL THE MISINFORMATION OUT THERE.

FOR INSTANCE, THIS PUBLIC CHARGE DOES NOT INCLUDE WICK AND SUMMER MEALS OR ANY MEALS THAT ARE COMING FROM SCHOOL.

WE WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT IMMIGRANT HOUSEHOLDS AREN'T OPTING OUT OF PROGRAMS THAT THEY'RE ELIGIBLE FOR AND MAKE SURE THEY GET IN TOUCH WITH AN IMMIGRATION LAWYER BEFORE THEY MAKE ANY DRASTIC DECISIONS.

LASTLY A TAG FOR ALL THIS.

FOLKS WHO ARE WATCHING AND LISTENING, CITY HARVEST, SOUNDS LIKE IT DOES GOOD WORK.

SEPTEMBER IS HUNGER ACTION MONTH.

A NUMBER OF THINGS YOU CAN DO TO BE ACTIVE.

VISIT OUR WEBSITE, CITYHARVEST.ORG.

SEE WHAT WE'RE UP TO PUBLIC CHARGE AND OTHER THINGS GOING ON.

YOU CAN CLICK ON THE ADVOCATE TAB AND ALSO LOOK INTO OUR DONATE TAB.

A SPECIAL GOING ON FOR HUNGER ACTION MONTH FOR FOLKS TO DONATE AND HELP DO FOOD DRIVES DURING THE UPCOMING HARVEST CITY.

THE ORGANIZATION DOES MARVELOUS WORK AND THANKS FOR SPENDING SOME TIME AND TALKING WITH US.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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