The City Council, in partnership with the Human Resources Administration (HRA) and the Food Bank of New York, will launch a wide-ranging outreach program to identify 211,801 Brooklyn households who are eligible for food stamps but may not be enrolled in the program.
“With skyrocketing food prices adding to the burden of rising rents, gas prices, and other costs, hardworking New Yorkers are forced to stretch their dollar further,” Council Speaker Christine Quinn said. “The food stamp data match initiative has allowed us to identify over 600,000 households [citywide] that may be eligible for food stamps but don’t receive them, and will enable us to target our outreach to specific areas and neighborhoods in need.”
According to the data match from a recent HRA study, hundreds of thousands of households citywide that are recipients of Medicaid benefits may also be eligible for food stamps. In Brooklyn, three zip codes, 11219, 11220 and 11226, had over 10,000 households that participate in the Medicaid program but are not enrolled in food stamps. The HRA will be mailing a letter to each household that matches the requirements, informing them that they may qualify for food stamps.
Eligibility requirements for Medicaid recipients are similar to requirements for those individuals who are eligible for food stamps, although not every household identified by the HRA will qualify for the program.
To be eligible for food stamps, a family of one must have a maximum gross income of $1,062 per month, while a family of four must make $2,167 and a family of eight must make $3,640 per month. About 680,000 Brooklyn residents live below 125 percent of the federal poverty line, consisting of 28 percent of the borough’s population. The Food Bank found that the percentage of Brooklyn residents living below 125 percent of the poverty line and not accessing emergency food programs has dropped from 27 percent to -4 percent, though the number of elderly residents not enrolled in the program remains high.
“I’ve witnessed long lines of working class people in downtown Brooklyn standing in line for food,” Councilmember Letitia James said. “It’s such a contrast seeing low income and working class people standing in line for free food in a neighborhood with million dollar brownstones.”
Pantries at several churches including the Food Pantry at the Greenpoint Reform Church (136 Milton Street), the Cathedral of Joy (43 George Street) and the Full Gospel Tabernacle Food Pantry (2004 Ralph Avenue) have reported increased numbers of individuals visiting their sites to collect food this year.
“We have jumped from 6,000 in November to 7500 in April, May and June,” said Reverend Melony Samuels, director of the Full Gospel Tabernacle Food Pantry. “As many people who are eligible to sign up for food stamps should because this is another way of alleviating hunger. We have HRA here once a month signing up clients.”
Reverend Norma Canty, pastor at the Cathedral of Joy Church of God, has also noticed an increase in seniors coming to her pantry.
“We’re trying to get a program set up and have a social worker onsite to see people, meet their needs and refer them to the proper agencies,” Canty said.
Pantries in neighborhoods with large immigrant populations face the challenge of enrolling households that may not want to divulge personal information out of fear regarding their immigration status. Canty, in addition to hoping for increased food allotment from her nonprofit suppliers, hopes that the HRA and other groups are sensitive to issues surrounding immigration when they conduct their outreach efforts.
“There is a need for someone to come and conduct interviews so people here feel they can trust the person,” Canty said. “We’ve been around long enough. They feel they can trust us for personal information.”