FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Nicole Aber, 646-627-7741
More Help Now Available for Struggling New Yorkers to Access SNAP, WIC Food Benefits
Hunger Free NYC’s Multilingual Benefits Access Team Offers Pre-Screenings, Application Assistance, and Re-Certification Help from New Bronx Office Jointly Funded by City of New York and Robin Hood
With Child Hunger Now at 38% in NYC and Unemployment at 25% in the Bronx, Nonprofit Organization is Working to Ensure Families Receive Federal Nutrition Benefits
Hunger Free New York City — a division of Hunger Free America, a national, nonpartisan direct service and advocacy organization — has increased the capacity of its Benefits Access team and opened a new Bronx office, jointly funded by the City of New York and Robin Hood, to assist more New Yorkers with enrolling in federally-funded food assistance programs including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). As hunger is skyrocketing across New York City, with 38 percent of parents reporting they had skipped meals or cut portions for their children because they lacked enough money for food in April, the need for federal food assistance programs is greater now more than ever.
“With the Bronx having been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic collapse, we decided one of the most effective courses of action we could take was to open an office where there is the most need,” said Hunger Free America CEO Joel Berg at the grand opening of the new office this afternoon.
According to the New York State Department of Labor, the unemployment rate in the Bronx was nearly 25 percent in June 2020 – higher than the citywide rate of 20.4 percent. Even prior to the pandemic, the Bronx was New York City’s hungriest borough, with almost one in four residents facing food insecurity from 2016-2018.
Berg was joined today at the new office – located at 938 Sheridan Avenue in the Concourse Village neighborhood of the Bronx – by the NYC Food Czar team including Kathryn Garcia, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Sanitation, and Kate MacKenzie, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy, as well as Bronx Deputy Borough President Marricka Scott-McFadden, New York City Council Member Vanessa Gibson, and New York State Senator Luis Sepúlveda.
“New Yorkers are struggling, and it is more important than ever that our neighbors can easily access benefits like SNAP, WIC and P-EBT. This new office, funded in part by the City of New York, will help people in the Bronx connect to the support they need. New Yorkers can also learn more about benefits at nyc.gov/getfood,” said Commissioner Garcia, the City’s COVID-19 Food Czar.
In addition to grant funding from Robin Hood, funding for Hunger Free NYC’s new office came in part from a package of emergency food funds allocated earlier this year by the New York City Council and the City of New York.
“The pandemic lays bare the economic and racial disparities that have plagued New York City for far too long, particularly in the Bronx where many families were hit hardest by COVID-19,” said Wes Moore, CEO of Robin Hood. “We are committed to not only supporting New Yorkers through this emergency, but through the long road of recovery ahead and we know that programs like SNAP and WIC are vital and proven support systems that not only alleviate hunger, but also stimulate local economies. We are proud to support Hunger Free NYC’s Benefits Access team who are providing a critical safety net for our disadvantaged neighbors.”
Hunger Free NYC’s Benefits Access team offers free SNAP application support to households in English, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Russian, and their WIC team offers support in English and Spanish. Both teams serve all five boroughs of New York City and assist clients through every step of the application and re-certification process.
Benefits Access specialists first screen clients to find out if they are eligible for SNAP and WIC benefits. For clients eligible for SNAP, the specialists can help them file their applications electronically and submit required documents, and advocate on clients’ behalf if they are not approved for an appropriate amount of benefits. WIC-eligible clients are assisted with potential application barriers and guided through the steps of the application process, which can now be done remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Hunger Free NYC team also helps with SNAP and WIC re-certification and follow-up after clients have been approved.
In addition, there are flyers onsite about P-EBT, a new federal benefit that provides $420 per child for groceries to any parent of a public-school child in New York City. There is no sign-up required for this program.
“As the economic ramifications of the pandemic continue into the next few months and years, federally-funded nutrition programs such as SNAP and WIC will be a life preserver for the 2 million New Yorkers that are drowning in hunger,” said Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America. “Our Benefits Access team in New York City continues to provide vital services by connecting seniors, parents, and children to food assistance that not only reduces hunger but also helps stimulate the local economy through increased purchases at supermarkets, bodegas, and farmers’ markets.”
From March through June of this year, Hunger Free NYC pre-screened more than 1,575 households for SNAP eligibility, with 930 of those families ultimately receiving SNAP benefits. Because of Hunger Free NYC’s intervention, these SNAP households will receive more than $2.7 million in collective annual benefits. The NYC team also helped hundreds of households enroll in the WIC Program over the same four-month time period.
Unlike SNAP, which has limits on who qualifies for benefits based on immigration status, all pregnant and postpartum women and families with children under age 5 may qualify for WIC benefits — regardless of immigration status.
“Our goal is to make sure every household that is eligible for SNAP and WIC benefits receives this assistance,” Berg continued. “These programs have been historically under-utilized, but with more and more families experiencing economic hardship and hunger due to COVID-19, it’s essential for us to increase our outreach and help as many New Yorkers as possible, especially vulnerable immigrant populations. We’re grateful to DSNY and Robin Hood for their valuable support to make this new office a reality.”
Hunger Free NYC encourages all New Yorkers who believe they may qualify for SNAP to contact Benefits Specialist Gira Peguero at (646) 350-0353 for help in English or Spanish and to contact WIC Benefits Specialist Andrea Quintana at (646) 453-7064 for information about WIC. New Yorkers who speak Russian can contact Benefits Specialist Eva Minkin at (332) 600-5415, and New Yorkers who speak Mandarin or Cantonese can contact Benefits Specialist Christina Tu at (646) 935-3513. Families in need of emergency food are encouraged to call the USDA National Hunger Hotline, managed by Hunger Free America, to find out where they can go to receive immediate food help. The USDA National Hunger Hotline can be reached by phone or text at 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE (for Spanish) from Monday through Friday (7 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET).