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January 25, 2021
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News + Views

Politics of Hunger

By Lisa M. Collins
Cheap city dinner: $5 pizza sale. Leaves you hungry for more... packs on pounds... no nutritional value... etc. City Hunger.
Photos by Joshua Kristal

Hunger in Brooklyn is a real problem, with one in four kids living in “food insecure” homes, and the situation is getting worse. Meanwhile, Congress is considering cutting food stamps by $4 billion, just as the number of food stamps applicants is shooting up.

Just this week a showdown broke out Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg over Bloomberg’s practice of fingerprinting food stamp applicants.

Cuomo, during his State of the State address this week, called for an end to the practice, saying it creates a stigma and keeps families who need food from applying. Apparently the law allows it but the city is the only municipality that enforces the practice. The governor’s office has said it could end the practice without he city’s approval.

“No child should go hungry in the great state of New York and we will do all that we can to prevent it,” Cuomo said.

Bloomberg shot back with a defense, saying that fingerprinting prevents fraud, and that food stamps are not a stigma in New York City.

New York City and Arizona are the only places that fingerprint food stamp applicants, according to a New York Times editorial calling for an end to the practice.

Berg says if you care, contact your Congressperson and weigh in on the proposed food stamps cuts, and call Mayor Bloomberg’s office to weigh in on the fingerprinting issue.

“Everyone who works full time ought to be paid enough to feed their families. If that can’t happen, there should be a government safety net, particularly for children, seniors and people with disabilities,” Berg said.

Berg is incensed. This year, the media mostly ignored his coalition’s big annual hunger report, which illustrated that the number of city children living in homes that run out of money for food is higher than ever, and rising.

Berg’s coalition lobbies for and provides resources to more than 1,100 non-profit soup kitchens and food pantries in New York City and 1.5 million low-income New Yorkers who live in homes that can’t afford enough food.

If you want to volunteer to make a difference, volunteer to non-profits lobbying for food stamp access, Berg says.

“Very few people volunteer to do food stamp outreach. But at least 500,000 in New York City are eligible for food stamps and don’t get them,” Berg said.

“We want people to devote their skills year round to nonprofits working on these issues and poverty issues. There are so many needs—writing, editing, web design–and non-profits desperately need that kind of help. The results of such projects can dwarf other efforts.”

“We need a political movement that demands our political leaders do the right thing,” Berg said.

Visit the coalition’s website to learn about how you can get involved:

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