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Electeds lament food stamp cuts but welcome more halal offerings

Former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announces emergency donations of kosher food during the Jewish holiday of Passover.
TimesLedger Newspapers

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) unsuccessfully railed against $39 billion worth of food stamp cuts written into the Farm Bill, but the two managed to guarantee that food aid allotted under the legislation would include kosher and halal options.

President Barack Obama signed the bill Feb. 7, after partisan debate over funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, colloquially referred to as food stamps.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimated the $39 billion reduction over the next decade will deny food assistance to about 3.8 million low-income people in 2014 and 3 million more annually in coming years.

Republicans argued the bill would spur the unemployed into finding jobs by eliminating their access to food stamps.

But the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities determined that more than 80 percent of the households with one able adult who received SNAP benefits had that individual in the work force the year before or after receiving food stamps.

On the heels of SNAP reductions in November, a family of four is slated to receive $400 less annually, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Currently benefits average out to less than $1.40 a meal per person.

Gillibrand and Crowley inserted a provision into the Farm Bill that requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture to target, label and track distribution of kosher and halal food to ensure supplies are sent to food banks that serve Jewish and Muslim people.

The lawmakers estimated that 300,000 Muslim families in the tri-state area and 330,000 Jewish families in the city live in poverty.

“No one should ever have to choose between deeply held religious beliefs and putting food on the table,” Crowley said in a statement. “Yet, oversights in current law have meant that many food banks in New York and elsewhere have struggled to meet the demand from families with religious dietary restrictions.”

Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at strangle@cnglocal.com.

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