Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo called Wednesday for increased giving to local food banks this holiday season as a way to offset federal food stamp cuts.
"Literally, families just have less food on the table than they were receiving, and the food stamp allocation was never overly generous," Cuomo said from Long Island Cares-The Harry Chapin Food Bank in Hauppauge, where he helped distribute more than 100 boxes of Thanksgiving meals that corporations donated to the state.
With a 2009 expansion to the federal food stamp program expiring this month, recipients have seen a roughly 14 percent reduction in assistance. Further cuts -- potentially up to $40 billion -- are under consideration in Congress.
Earlier this week, Cuomo announced that the state would give an additional $4.5 million in grants to 2,600 food banks -- including $245,392 to Long Island Cares -- to help them deal with the increased demand as a result of the food stamp cuts.
"But it only makes up some of the shortfall," Cuomo said, joined at the food bank's loading docks by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Babylon Supervisor Richard Schaffer and state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport). "So, part of what we're doing today is asking New Yorkers to come together and to help make donations to share. That's what Thanksgiving is all about."
Paule Pachter, Long Island Cares' executive director, said the state's Thanksgiving donations were immediately taken to Pronto of Long Island in Bay Shore and the Gerald Ryan Outreach Center in Wyandanch.
Though the impact from superstorm Sandy is less acute this holiday, Pachter said overall demand for his food bank's services has increased in 2013.
"Even with unemployment down, there are still people who are underemployed, and still people putting their lives back together after the storm," Pachter said. "But the good thing is that the food keeps coming in."
Long Island Cares has distributed 2 million pounds of food this year, officials said, and had 50 volunteers on hand Wednesday to give out turkey dinners.
"After the storm, it was all emergency needs," Bellone said. "Now we're seeing the needs from the economy, and they're still significant."