Hunger Free America's Advocacy Track Record: Tough Fights and Big Wins
In January 2002, a total of 798,396 New York City residents received food stamp (now called SNAP) benefits, receiving a collective total of $82.64 million in benefits. At that time, Hunger Free America, then known as the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, determined that more than 1 million low-income New Yorkers were eligible but not receiving food benefits and launched a comprehensive advocacy and media outreach campaign to increase participation.
In 2008, Hunger Free America proposed to the federal government the creation of a new grant program to reward states for innovative programs to reduce child hunger. In 2010, Congress and the President agreed, as part of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA), to create such a grant program. In 2015, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, announced the first grants under the program, awarding $27 million to Kentucky, Nevada, Virginia, the Chickasaw Nation, and the Navajo Nation.
Hunger Free America CEO Joel Berg co-wrote a paper for the Center for American Progress calling on governors to create State Food Action Plans. Governor Cuomo used this proposal as a model for his own State Hunger Task Force and appointed Berg to the task force.
Hunger Free America spearheaded a successful effort to eliminate finger printing of SNAP applicants, ending the costly, punitive, and ineffective process.
By January of 2013, New York City residents' participation in SNAP increased to 1,642,854 people (a 844,458 person jump from 2002) and monthly benefits increased to $288.94 million (a 273-percent increase). There were many factors responsible for this hike, with the largest factor being the deep and long recession. During this time period, Hunger Free America internally spent approximately $300,000 annually on SNAP advocacy and outreach and aided 84,000 people. Every $3.50 spent by Hunger Free America helped one person get SNAP for one year and every $1 spent by Hunger Free America generated $823 worth of benefits.
During this time, Hunger Free America also helped convince Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to push to increase aid to Community Supported Agriculture in the federal Farm Bill in 2013, using our CSA sites as models.
We helped lead the national campaign opposing SNAP cuts. While we didn’t prevent the cuts, they would have been far deeper without our work. We spoke out in the national news media, organized those directly impacted by the cuts, met with elected officials, held public events to raise awareness, and brought together our colleagues from across the nation in an effort to keep millions of Americans from losing the benefits they rely on to feed their families.
During this time, Hunger Free America also played a key role in New York City’s decision to accept the federal waiver that allows people who are unemployed to continue to get SNAP benefits as they look for work.
Hunger Free America convinced New York City Mayor de Blasio and the City Council to allocate nearly $18 million in city funding to ensure universal free breakfasts in classrooms in 530 elementary schools, serving 339,000 students, by fall 2017. This increase leveraged tens of millions of dollars in extra federal breakfast reimbursements.
Additionally, we played a significant role in convincing Governor Cuomo to take executive action to shield New York State SNAP recipients from federal cuts, ensuring that 300,000 low-income households kept $450 million worth of food benefits in 2014 and 2015 each.
During this time, we also played a high-level role in the national media to help successfully block conservatives in Congress from rolling-back improved school nutrition standards.