By the end of this year, food stamp programs nationwide could be cut by billions, and that could disproportionately affect New Yorkers, especially those living in the Bronx, a borough that's home to the poorest congressional district. The Food Bank for New York City, though, is trying to change that. NY1's Erin Clarke filed the following report.
Brenda Serrano and Xiomara Meijas are struggling because food stamps aren't enough to feed their families.
Serrano has five kids. Meijas has three. Both are faced with some difficult choices, saying their income is just not enough.
"I have to resort to taking now a little bit from rent or a little bit from Con Edison or not paying this because I have to because I have to get extra food," Meijas said.
They say the food stamp program, known as SNAP, provides just $4.50 a day per person, and that only lasts about three weeks. So they end up at the emergency food pantry at Part of the Solution in the Bronx.
"If I didn't have this place, honest, I'd be in the streets, robbing, trying to support my family," Serrano said.
Things may now get worse. This week, the Senate passed a Farm Bill that cuts food stamps by $4 billion, and a House version of the bill could increase those cuts to more than $20 billion. That means these two women's families could lose $20 or more in benefits per month.
"I tell my kid, 'I can't feed you because I have to think about the next day to feed you,'" Serrano said. "So if you guys are cutting down food stamps and taking away the food stamps from us, it is wrong, wrong, wrong."
If those cuts are made, Serrano, Meijas and many other families will have no choice but to depend more heavily on food pantries that are already stretched to their limits.
"Unfortunately, we can't make up that gap. We're just too small," said Christopher Bean, executive director of Part of the Solution. "We don't really serve and have the impact that SNAP would."
In response, the Food Bank For New York City has launched the Lost Meals campaign to try to stop the cuts they say would disproportionately affect New Yorkers.
"We want to build awareness among New Yorkers about the pending cuts, and we hope that what we'll do is encourage New Yorkers to act now by calling their congressman, writing them," said Dominique Jones, chief programs officer for the Food Bank for New York City.
If the cuts are enacted, thousands of New Yorkers could be in dire straights come fall.