Some Starve While We Carve Turkey

By Christine C. Quinn and Annabel Palma

For most of us, a Thanksgiving feast with friends and family is the order of the day. However, many of our fellow New Yorkers don't know where their next meal -- let alone their Thanksgiving turkey -- is coming from.

Superstorm Sandy has only swelled the ranks of New Yorkers who face food insecurity. The storm's aftermath has served as an urgent reminder that hunger remains a problem for far too many city residents.

Our emergency food providers' response to Sandy has been inspiring, as they quickly moved to deliver food and water to those who lost their homes, power or regular access to a meal.

From the established anti-hunger organizations that immediately began dispatching truckloads of food to communities in need to the small restaurants that opened up their kitchens to strangers on the street, food suppliers have worked tirelessly to keep New Yorkers from going hungry while providing comfort during an incredibly trying time.

Emergency food providers did this crucial work in spite of the fact that they increasingly lack the resources to feed the approximate 1.5 million city residents who rely on pantries and soup kitchens year round. Sandy drove home the need to protect and support our emergency food system.

As the recovery effort continues into its fourth week, we call on the federal Department of Agriculture to quickly approve the city's application for Disaster SNAP, or D-SNAP.

Formerly known as food stamps, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is a temporary benefit that provides vital food assistance for those in need -- and has already been authorized for other counties.

The state automatically replaced funds for those who had already been receiving SNAP -- but now we must provide for those families facing additional hardship in the storm's aftermath.

D-SNAP is specifically intended for disaster survivors, including those families that may not have needed this benefit prior to the storm. D-SNAP would bring enormous relief to communities like Staten Island, the Far Rockaways and Coney Island, allowing residents to focus on rebuilding their lives instead of worrying about having enough food to eat. In addition, all the benefits and half the administrative costs of D-SNAP are federally funded.

As a city recovering from a disaster, we can't afford to pass this opportunity by.

In the meantime, our legislators in Washington must continue to rally against the severe cuts to the regular SNAP program that are currently on the table. Now more than ever, we must preserve programs that provide the food necessary for our city's families and children to thrive and grow.

Lastly, as the holiday season begins, we must continue to support our emergency food network, which feeds approximately one out of every seven New Yorkers.

There are roughly 800 soup kitchens and food pantries throughout the five boroughs -- down from more than 1,000 in 2007 due to decreased funding -- and over the years, they have seen their food resources decline, even as need has steadily risen at the same time.

We cannot allow our fellow New Yorkers to go hungry. We must prioritize funding that ensures that our most vulnerable -- our elderly, our disabled, our struggling working families -- don't have to make the difficult choice between paying their rent, buying their medication or having enough to eat.

Sandy is a somber reminder that our safety nets must be strong so that they can catch us when disaster strikes. New Yorkers have again proven that they possess the compassion and courage to help their neighbors in times of need.

Now government and citizens alike must respond -- not just to this crisis, but also to the hunger that always exists in our city.

Quinn is the speaker of the City Council, while Palma is the chair of the Council's general welfare committee.