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Many of the hungry in southeast Queens are not aware of the food programs available to the community, and those who are aware often find it difficult to determine which program is right for them.
Representatives from the New York City Hunger Free Communities Consortium met with community members last week at the Jamaica branch of the Queens Library, where they supplied information on where to get food and offered pre-screenings for food stamps.
“There are a lot of barriers to the food stamp process,” said outreach worker Marie Vincent. Vulnerable populations such as the homeless need to be sought out, she said, because many people are unaware of available programs and others are ashamed to seek assistance.
“When it comes to hunger, there is nothing to be ashamed about,” she said.
Much of the stigma associated with food stamps has been blamed on the fingerprint requirement, and in May Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state would end that requirement.
“For too long requiring finger imaging from those eligible for food stamp benefits has created an unnecessary barrier to participation in the program, causing a negative stigma and keeping food off the table for those in need,” he said. “By removing this barrier, additional New Yorkers in need will be able to access the benefits they deserve without having to submit to this unneeded and burdensome requirement.”
The city Human Resources Administration, however, still does fingerprinting.
“Fingerprinting — there’s still a lot of talk about it being eradicated, but that’s still something they do today,” said consortium outreach worker Vanna Valdez.
Those seeking food stamps first fill out an application with HRA and then set up a phone interview. If approved, they have to go to an HRA office, where they are fingerprinted.
The consortium offers pre-screening to help guide people through the process and makes recommendations to those who do not qualify.
Clifford Duffus, who helps out at the Jamaica Seventh-day Adventist Church on 163rd Street, was one of about five people to sign up for pre-screening.
“I’m the food pantry director,” he said. “I send people from one place to another, but I never filled out an application myself.”
Duffus, 88, noted how many transit options there are in Jamaica, and said he sees people come from places such as Long Island and the Bronx. He supplied the outreach workers with a list of food pantries and soup kitchens in the area.
“There’s so much food in Jamaica,” he said.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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