New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand stopped by Evangel Food Pantry in Astoria, St. John’s Bread & Life in Bed-Stuy and three other sites in New York City to advocate for the Ensuring Nutrition for America’s Students Act.
The legislation gives resources to families who have lost access to free or reduced lunches due to school closures caused by the pandemic. It would also extend the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program, set to expire on September 30, through the upcoming school year to ensure students have meals even if they switch to remote learning.
In addition, eligibility for P-EBT would extend to meet the growing hunger needs. According to Gillibrand’s office, roughly 2.1 million children statewide are eligible for the federal program.
“The incredible community leaders I met with today can’t do it alone,” Gillibrand said in a statement. “They need our federal government to step up and find ways to catch the kids slipping through the cracks.
“This pandemic and economic crisis have left people sick and scared, hurting and hungry. Through no fault of their own, people have lost their jobs, their paychecks and their ability to put food on the table,” she added. “That’s why it’s critical that the next relief package prioritizes expanding SNAP and P-EBT benefits.”
Pastor Andrew Marko of Evangel Christian Church said their small local pantry has grown from serving 500 families one day a week to serving 1,500 families a day, six days a week.
“The increase has been staggering, and it has been difficult to keep enough food in the building to handle the additional demand,” Marko said. “Any help Senator Gillibrand and Congress can offer through legislation to help combat this new level of food insecurity would be amazing to continue our work of feeding our neighbors.”
Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forest, was joined in Bed-Stuy by Joel Berg, CEO of the nonprofit group Hunger Free America, which endorsed the legislation.
Berg said the country is still facing the “gravest child hunger crisis in modern times,” which is unlikely to end soon. He called on the Senate to vote on life-saving food assistance funding.
“It is imperative that the U.S. Senate heed Senator Gillibrand’s compassionate, common-sense call to extend and expand federal food benefits,” he said, “especially Pandemic EBT benefits, during this time of grave national emergency.”