It's been a program often targeted by those who are urging the federal government to rein in spending: Food stamps. In Onondaga County, the number of people receiving that aid is up nearly a third in the past five years. Those critics claim the program has become "too" generous. But YNN's Bill Carey says a group of local clergy have launched an awareness campaign, arguing that food stamps are just barely meeting the community's needs.
ONONDAGA COUNTY, N.Y. -- The group is called Interfaith Works of Central New York. It represents various religious denominations in the Syracuse area. The message was that this is no time to be talking about cutting back on Food Stamp aid.
“This isn't just a Jewish thing or an Episcopal thing or a Methodist thing or a Catholic thing or anything else. This is a human cause. And together, we can make our community more whole and we can look out for those who are in need and we can help them live healthier lives,” said Rabbi Daniel Gellman of Temple Concord.
The group has joined a nationwide campaign called the "Hunger Project." People are asked to limit their food purchases to $33.60 a week to give them an idea of the choices facing those on food stamps. After their first round of shopping, most of those taking part in the challenge say it was hard work finding enough food for a week on such a small amount of money.
“I don't think that I would be able to do this week to week to week. This took extraordinary effort,” said Rev. Tiffany Steinwert, Dean of Hendricks Chapel.
“One can live on $30 a week. I'm not convinced there's a way to live healthfully on it. For a person to live on boxed macaroni and cheese and Raman noodles endlessly, yes, they'll be sated. They'll be full. But it's an awful diet,” Fellman said.
A situation made worse by a lack of mobility for many living at or below the poverty line.
“Think about the person who's living in the inner city without a car. There are no grocery stores anywhere nearby. We can't ask people to spend five hours on CENTRO buses to go and get fresh vegetables and fruits,” said Sherry Chayat of the Zen Center in Syracuse.
The clergy members say rather than considering cuts in the program, now may be the time to study ways to increase spending and insure the poor receive the proper nutrition.
The food stamp program serves a number of families. In Onondaga County, one in every four children receives food stamp assistance.