Kirsten Gillibrand Launches 2012 With a Call for Increased Food Stamp Money, Better Access to Fresh Food

Electeds like to talk -- but U.S. Sen. Kirsten 
Thumbnail image for photo (1) gillibrand.JPG
Gillibrand came to the Bronx today to listen. 

That's what Gillibrand said at the launch of an event this morning at Hostos Community College, where she joined Rep. Joe Crowley for a "listening session" on an upcoming Farm Bill, which Congress is set to debate this year. 

The session timed well with reports yesterday on the growing mess at city agencies due to an extreme demand for food stamps. "More families are in need now than ever. ... It is the most severe time in our nation's history for food insecurity," said Gillibrand, who is New York's first member of the Senate Agriculture Committee in decades. And issues that the Agriculture Committee discusses are quite relevant to New York City and the Bronx, she explained, since it makes decisions related to food stamps, farmers markets, hunger policy, nutrition programs, and legislation about food deserts and access.

She started the session, which was her kickoff press appearance of 2012, with some politics 101 -- it's all about being the voice for YOU, New Yorkers. "It's really important that I have the chance to sit on this committee to be your voice," she told the crowd of more than a hundred advocates and interested residents. "I need to hear directly from you, so that's why I'm here."

Gillibrand is pushing for a 30% increase in the amount of money that goes into food stamps through the upcoming bill, she said, so that families would get $800 per month, instead of $600. She's also looking to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables in the food deserts of the city, like parts of the Bronx. Gillibrand, who is now on a "listening tour," recently visited Hunts Point Terminal Produce Market in the Bronx and said there's a lot of potential to make it a more effective food hub for local residents. 

As Crowley put it, "It's easier for a young person to buy a Twinkie than it is to get a fresh apple or banana." (No offense to Hostess or Twinkies, he added). 

A mutual love-fest ensued in which advocates thanked Gillibrand for her support and she thanked them for their advocacy. 

"I spend a fair amount of my time unfortunately forced to criticize elected officials, so I'm thrilled today to be able to defend two champions of ours," said Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. "Senator Gillibrand, in a very short time, you've become a true champion of hungry people." 

At least one audience member grilled Gillibrand for cutting food stamps last year and also putting too much money into the military (which OWS protested yesterday). 

Gillibrand explained, "I was against [the cuts] and I fought against it. I thought it was a terrible, terrible deal. ... I do not believe in cutting food stamps." (She voted in favor of a children's nutrition bill, which was financed in part through future cuts in food stamps). 

Unfortunately, it's just the way Washington works, she said. "It's a typical vote you have to make in Washington." She wants the troops to come home from Iraq and Afghanistan, but, "That doesn't mean I want to not invest in fighting terrorism," she said. 

For some, the event was about Bronx pride. "Back in the day, people would say that the Bronx was burning," said Qiana Mickie, a 36-year-old single mother who is from the Bronx and now lives in Harlem. "Now, I'm proud to say that the Bronx is growing." 

"Senator, you mention you are on our side," said Mickie, who is a member of the New York City Food and Farm Bill Working Group. "And I believe you." 

Runnin' Scared asked Gillibrand if she had a comment about the developments in Iowa and the Republican race before she headed out. "No ... no," she said with a small laugh before leaving with her press team.

[SLevin / @SamTLevin]

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6 comments
Kristen
Kristen

"the most severe time in our nation's history for food insecurity"? Really? More than the 1930s? Can someone get her a copy of 'Grapes of Wrath' or something? 

J R
J R

That defender of Gillibrand, Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. "Senator Gillibrand, in a very short time, you've become a true champion of hungry people." Year 2009 salary: $100,515

J R
J R

Yes, she did vote to cut food stamps! And now is ging around without nary a critical voice, good to read this!  Pressure from the Green Party and principled people led to this change in her tone:The Greens also criticized Senators Gillibrand and Schumer for recently voting to cut food stamp funding in order to provide some limited additional funds to the child nutrition programs, which are up for reauthorization.The Green Party also supports increased funding for food stamps (SNAP), the single largest component of the Farm Bill. In recent weeks Gillibrand and Schumer have voted to cut over $13 billion from the food stamp program to fund other programs, including state fiscal relief and the reauthorization of the child nutrition programs. The Greens said the Senate should have either cut the military budget or the Bush tax cuts, not take food away from hungry Americans, especially in the greatest recession of the last 70 years."We should be feeding hungry children by cutting funds for tanks and missiles, not funds from another anti-hunger program," said Clark.The Greens criticized Senator Kristen Gillibrand for failing to support reform of the farm bill when it was up for renewal two years ago. Gillibrand was the only Democratic member of the House Agriculture Committee but repeatedly refused to discuss reform with anti-poverty, faith and food policy groups. Gillibrand has been holding listening sessions on the farm bill as part of her re-election effort, including one on Wednesday at Red Jacket Orchards in Ontario

Mikoe Wozz
Mikoe Wozz

 

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Maria Senilla
Maria Senilla

you can't blame her, JR. She's one of the 1% and has trouble taking real action to benefit the 99%. Look at her background. You'll see. She's so tied to the political establishment it's no wonder.

The writer here got it right: "A mutual love-fest ensued in which advocates thanked Gillibrand for her support and she thanked them for their advocacy." Gross that people like Joel Berg exist to pull down their 6 digits while scratching the backs of pols. The NGO-industrial Complex.

She blames Washington but she doesn't take effective action to stop this. No risk of career by Gillibrand to further our state's or nation's interests. Meanwhile all the Democrats - from Obama in the White House to Sweeney in the State Assembly are pushing 'safe' fracking while big landowners across the country lease land to drillers and (threaten to) poison this and future generations.

That said, Avella has a bill to ban fracking permits being issued and he's a Democrat. But these are few and far between and sell-out Assemblyman Robert Sweeney doesn't even mention it in the plethora of bills to regulate 'safe' fracking he pushes in his newsletters.

What a racket!

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