Kings County food pantries are bracing for the crippling flood of new clients expected as a result of a new Trump Administration policy preventing those receiving federal assistance from becoming citizens, experts report.
The new federal initiative known informally as the “public charge rule” will allow Uncle Sam to reject visa and green card applications from immigrants signed up for federal welfare programs, like Medicaid and food stamps, by deeming them a “public charge.”
Brooklyn receives more food stamp benefits through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program than any other borough in the city — 22 percent of residents were enrolled in the program in 2018 — but experts claim the mere mention of Trump’s exclusionary new proposal has already caused beneficiaries to flee the program.
“The policies coming out of the federal government are already having a chilling effect on some of our most vulnerable neighbors, scaring them away from SNAP and other vital resources like shelter and healthcare,” said Camesha Grant, a representative of Food Bank for New York City. “This rule is the latest attempt to intimidate immigrants and their families — it would lead to thousands more New Yorkers going hungry every day.”
Brooklyn’s hardest-hit neighborhoods will be Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, and Ocean Hill, where more than 30 percent of residents rely on food stamps, according to a report by Food Bank for New York City.
Trump first proposed the public charge rule last year, the mere suggestion of which prompted beneficiaries to flee the food stamp program, which saw a 12 percent enrollment dip from 2018 to 2019, according to a report published by the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.
Those hungry Brooklyn residents who fled the federal program last year turned to local food pantries for help, and employees recounted the miserable experience of having to turn hundreds of families away.
“We’ve cut hundreds of families and turned away hundreds of people,” said Tom Neve, who runs the Bensonhurst food pantry and social services organization, Reaching-Out Community Services.
A survey found that 81 percent of soup kitchens and food pantries see federal policy changes as a significant threat to their ability to serve New Yorkers in need, and more than half of the city’s food pantries reported running low on food in 2018, according to Food Bank for New York City.
And with many food pantries already operating on a shoestring budget, operators pray they can keep their already struggling missions open in the face of what’s to come.
“I hope to God we can keep our doors open,” Neve said.