ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — New York State lawmakers held a virtual hearing Wednesday on COVID-19’s effects on food insecurity.
“When individuals and households experience food insecurity, they are at greater risk of hunger, malnourishment, poor physical and mental health, and poor academic and work achievement,” said NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Commissioner Michael Hein.
The Commissioner said that in a span of four months the number of people receiving SNAP benefits increased by more than nine percent.
“In February, before the onset of the pandemic, over 2.5 million people received $355 million in SNAP benefits. By June, the last month for which there is complete and official data, almost 2.8 million people received more than $588 million in SNAP benefits,” he said.
Additionally, he said emergency food providers have also seen a sharp increase in demand.
The COVID-19 pandemic placed enormous pressure on food banks across the country and forced them to increase the amount of food distributed while heightening safety precautions and often changing the entire mechanisms by which they distribute food,” said Anne Byrne, Ph.D. Candidate, Dyson School of Applied Economics & Management, Cornell University.
Byrne, who has done research on the subject, said the greatest demand is not necessarily where the most cases are.
“It is the economic fallout associated with lock downs, closures and safety precautions that have led to increased food bank demand,” she said.
One solution to help alleviate food insecurity was the state’s $25 million Nourish New York program, which has diverted food from farms that would otherwise have gone to waste to those in need.
“Millions of pounds were distributed at hundreds, hundreds of sites across the state to over 600,000 families,” said NYS Assemblymember Donna Lupardo.