House Republicans also have proposed giving block grants to the states for SNAP, a move the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says could reduce enrollment and benefit levels.
Changes to SNAP could significantly impact New York’s Jewish communities. About one in five Jewish households in the New York area is poor, according to a 2011 UJA-Federation study. Poverty is particularly concentrated among the fast-growing Hasidic population.
“If there are cuts, I really think people are going to feel it,” said Huvi Schmerler, a nutrition program coordinator at the non-profit Nachas Health and Family Network.
In Borough Park, Brooklyn, where Nachas is located, more than a third of families with children received SNAP benefits, according to American Community Survey estimates for 2008-2010, and large households are common.
Many of Schmerler’s clients already find it hard to live on the benefits they receive, she said. New Yorkers also deal with higher food costs than much of the country: A New York household of six can receive up to $952 in SNAP benefits per month, while the minimum bill for nutritious food is $1,181, a recent study by the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness found.
Charities like Masbia, a network of kosher soup kitchens, help fill the gap between hunger and food stamps for some people. Masbia, which serves about 150 meals a day to people of any faith at its Borough Park site, does not collect benefit data from its clients, but executive director Alexander Rapaport said he believes most are SNAP recipients.
But activists like Sayani see nutrition as a human rights issue.