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February 14, 2013 - 11:02am

Governor's proposed budget could cut funding for local food bank programs

posted by Howard B. Owens in community action of Orleans & Genesee, Foodlink.

Every month, hundreds of people in Genesee County rely on free food programs to help them meet their nutritional needs, and the number of people needing assistance has only grown, according to local food bank officials.

Even as the need goes up, said Laura Sugarwala, nutrition resource manager for Foodlink, funding is in danger of being cut.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed budget cuts funding for the main source of revenue for these programs by 13 percent and puts the budget allocation into the Maternal Child Health and Nutrition Grant program.

The change would essentially end the 30-year-old Hunger Prevention Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP).

Agencies such as Foodlink would compete with other programs for a single pot of money. Also, the change would delay the ability of Foodlink and the organizations they serve to budget in advance of providing services, at least to the same degree they can now.

Foodlink helps channel HPNAP funding to four local agencies that feed the hungry -- Community Action of Orleans & Genesee, the Salvation Army, Steven's Table and City Church.

"I see a lot of hungry people, a lot of children this could potentially effect," said Lisa Whittmeyer, emergency service coordinator for Community Action.

Whittmeyer and Sugarwala hope that area residents will stop by the Community Action office at 5073 Clinton St. Road, Batavia, to sign a petition, sign the online petition at FoodlinkNY.org, or write to Assemblyman Steve Hawley and Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer and express support for retaining funding as is for HPNAP.

The proposed cuts would mean a cut in services and the amount of food available, both Whittmeyer and Sugarwala said.

Sugarwala said it will be much harder to provide properly nutritious food to clients of the local agencies if funding is cut.

"In my role as nutrition resource manager, I would have to make decisions, without funding, about what we wouldn't be able to carry in the way of nutritious products, items like low-grain and low-sodium products -- all the things that are important for health," Sugarwala said.

The people who rely on food bank programs are not necessarily the same people who get food stamps or receive other government assistance.

Those programs are means tested and sometimes people reach circumstances in their life where they simply don't have enough money for food, even though they don't qualify for other government assistance programs.

For any of the food banks, anybody who walks through the door and says they're hungry gets a meal.

"People in our service area come from a variety of backgrounds," Sugarwala said. "We don't know everything that's going on at home."

Foodlink, which receives $2 million in annual funding from HPNAP, serves a 10-county region in WNY. Four years ago, a survey found 125,000 people in that service area that don't always get enough to eat.

Since then, food banks have seen a 30-percent increase in the number of meals served. Foodlink is preparing another survey because officials suspect the number of people facing food emergencies regularly may have as much as doubled.

Mark Potwora
Mark Potwora's picture
Last seen: 2 days 17 hours ago
Joined: May 14 2008 - 6:42pm

Dont take this the wrong way...But what i never understood was with all these food programs such as the ones above..the free lunches the schools hand out ..meals on wheels..Why do we have food stamps..All these people should be able to receive food stamps..Why have all these programs to achieve the same goals of feeding the poor.I never understood free lunches in the school if the parents are receiving food stamps why aren't they packing their kids lunch..Isn't this what food stamps are for..

Lisa Wittmeyer
Lisa Wittmeyer's picture
Last seen: 8 months 1 week ago
Joined: Apr 5 2010 - 3:10pm

Hi Mark,
I appreciate your comment and concerns regarding food and hunger issues. I will try my best to assist in my response.
Yes, while most all of my consumers receive food stamps or SNAP (Supplemantal Nutrition Assistance Program); SNAP does not provide for all of their food needs. Consumers often don't have extra money to put toward their food budget. Emergency food pantries, such as Community Actions' and The Salvation Army provide food most often when SNAP has run out for the month; as our emergency food programs only provide food enough for 5 (or so) days.
The free breakfast and lunch programs in schools are WONDERFUL and necessary! This program ensures that families don't have to use their SNAP "dollars" to purchase foods to pack in lunches. (I personally know of this extra expense).
The Meals on Wheels program is for the homebound 60 and over population, often seniors who are frail. While this program provides a hot meal everyday, personal contact is a big part of the program. This contact is important for seniors who live alone and don't receive many visitors.
Just a side note *Hunger is a symptom of a bigger problem. I know at Community Action, I assess cleints each time they come in, not just give a box of food and send them on their way. We have many programs at Community Action of Orleans & Genesee designed to assist needy consumers - more than just food.
Feel free to contact me at 343-7798 x116 with any further questions or concerns.
Lisa P. Wittmeyer
Emergency Services Coordinator

Raymond Richardson
Raymond Richardson's picture
Last seen: 2 years 7 months ago
Joined: Aug 18 2012 - 9:23am


In addition to what Lisa pointed out in her response to your question, food stamps can not be used for prepared foods, or foods that are already cooked and served hot, which school lunches are.

david spaulding
david spaulding's picture
Last seen: 2 days 1 hour ago
Joined: Sep 12 2011 - 5:46pm

and....from what i've heard from the media lately,the food stamps(benefits card)is for cigarettes,beer and casino gambling,not sure if good for lap dances,but wouldn't be surprised if it was.

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