A recent city study found that nearly 200,000 Queens families enrolled for Medicaid are also eligible for food stamps but do not receive the government subsidies, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) said.
Quinn joined western Queens leaders and City Council members at Long Island City's Center for Hope International, which houses the Bread of Life food pantry, last Thursday to announce a new city program that would notify borough families that they are eligible for food stamps.
She said the program could aid families struggling to put food on the table as the nation's and city's economy continues to weaken.
"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," Quinn said. "There are 1 million more enrolled in Medicaid than in food stamps and we wanted to find out who is getting one benefit and not the other."
Quinn said there are approximately 197,844 borough households eligible for stamps that do not receive them. In addition, she said the city's new food stamp data match initiative has identified more than 400,000 other eligible households citywide.
She said the neighborhoods with the highest concentration of eligible families not receiving food stamps are Elmhurst, Corona, Flushing, Glendale, Woodside and Ridgewood.
Quinn said the city will put up posters around the borough to notify residents about food stamp eligibility as well as placing information in coupon packets at Queens supermarkets. The city will review the program's success in one year, she said.
Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside), who attempted to live on a weekly food stamp allotment of $28 for one week last year, said the nation's current economic slump and rising cost of living have not only affected the city's poor.
"Middle-class families who never thought they would be in the position to not afford food can now not afford food," he said. "This is a moral issue."
Joel Berg, the city nonprofit Coalition Against Hunger's executive director, said one half of all hungry city residents are children.
Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis), the Finance Committee chairman, said 2,300 families in his district — which includes Glen Oaks, Bayside and Little Neck — are eligible for food stamps, but do not receive them.
"I represent what is statistically one of the more affluent districts in the city, so this is alarming," he said. "There's no shame in people taking advantage of what they are entitled to in order to take care of their families."
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.
©2008 Community News Group
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