By Council Member Corey Johnson
The fight to save the Associated Supermarket on West 14th Street has spurred conversations about food access and the difficulty that many West Siders face in obtaining affordable groceries. We must fight to keep stores like Associated in our neighborhood. But it is important to note that even with access to a local supermarket, many of our neighbors, particularly seniors, have trouble affording groceries.
According to Food Bank For New York City, 14.5% of residents who live in Council District 3 are food insecure—that is, they lack the resources to have enough food at all times for an active, healthy life. That’s more than 24,000 New Yorkers in my district alone.
I believe it is important to continually raise awareness about programs that help New Yorkers afford groceries. Too often, New Yorkers are simply unaware that they are eligible for programs to help them gain access to affordable food.
One of these programs is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, a federal program that provides food-purchasing assistance for millions of low- and no-income Americans. The average benefit, per person, is nearly $150 per month. The amount of food that one can receive through SNAP over the course of a year far exceeds anything that one can get from a food pantry. It also provides the dignity that comes with shopping in a supermarket along with everyone else.
If you are having difficulty affording groceries, please find out if you are eligible for SNAP. Generally speaking, anyone with income up to 130% of the federal poverty line can apply: $15,444 for a single individual; $26,208 for a household of three. Seniors, people with disabilities and households with childcare expenses are eligible with an even higher income. To learn whether or not you meet the guidelines for receiving SNAP benefits, visit www.nyc.gov/snap or call 311. You can also call my office at (212) 564-7757 and a member of my staff will assist you.
In New York State, recent changes to the SNAP program have imposed a time limit on the amount of time some recipients can receive SNAP, and it begins to take effect this April. If you lose your benefits and you’re not sure why, please contact my office. Luckily, we have great federal representatives like Congressman Jerrold Nadler in Washington who are fighting for more funding for these programs.
Please spread the word about this program to your friends and neighbors. We must continue to fight until all New Yorkers have ample access to affordable, healthy food.