Letter: Emergency food is an essential program

A social worker displays a Federal food stamps

A social worker displays a Federal food stamps card that is used to purchase food. (Credit: Getty, 2011)

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The letter "Emergency food program ineffective" [Jan. 11] by Nassau County's commissioner of social services inaccurately represents the federal government's role in administering the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP), by asserting that the program does not include "staffing or guaranteed funding for administrative expenses from the state or federal government."

While setting up a D-SNAP can be challenging, these statements do a disservice to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's long-standing tradition of helping to bring food to those hardest hit by natural disasters, and could not be further from the truth.

After superstorm Sandy, the USDA coordinated with partner organizations and volunteers to provide critical disaster nutrition assistance, such as emergency food supplies and D-SNAP benefits, in 13 states, including New York. We offer substantial assistance, including reimbursing states 50 percent of their D-SNAP administrative costs. In addition, we offer guidance and technical assistance during the D-SNAP planning and implementation stages to help local officials determine what will best meet the needs of their communities. Over the past two years, the USDA has worked with 21 states to establish D-SNAP programs that have helped more than 1.8 million low-income people put food on the table.

D-SNAP is specifically designed to assist low-income households that do not receive food stamps -- many of which have never accessed public benefits before. D-SNAP proved pivotal in nearby Westchester County, where USDA worked with the state and local governments to launch the program and provided benefits to 2,382 households.

After a large-scale disaster like Sandy, the healthy food made available through D-SNAP can bring a sense of security, comfort and hope to low-income families that are suffering through the loss of their homes or possessions.

James Arena-DeRosa, Boston

Editor's note: The writer is the Northeast regional administrator for the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.

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