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Budget Cuts Could Have Negative Effect on Foodlink

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Rochester: Budget Cuts Could Have Negative Effect on Foodlink
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"We really are the last line of defense," said Jeanette Batiste, Foodlink Chief Operating Officer. "We're there for the people that have nowhere else to go."

And the need is growing for people and food pantries and cupboards served by Foodlink.

"This is in the face of an unprecedented increase in demand over the last five years. Our numbers have more than doubled in many cases."

But funding for Foodlink and other food banks across New York is being threatened by proposed state budget cuts.

"The worst case scerario for us would be that Cuomo's budget is passed as it is."

Batiste says the biggest concern is a proposal to remove Hunger Prevention Nutrition Assistance Program, or HPNAP funding as a line item in the state budget. The proposal, say food banks, would not only cut funding of critical programs by ten percent, but also force regional food banks to compete for the money.

"So what this would mean essentially is that we can anticipate cuts to this very essential lifeline for the emergency food network, and two, there would be a delay in the funding."

Bad enough, says Batiste, if the state budget is approved on time.

"Delays in that funding for many of our partner organizations, could mean significant hardships in continuing to do the work they do."

Veterans Outreach Center delivers thousands of meals yearly through it's programs. It, and hundreds of others who pick up goods at Foodlink's Mount Read Boulevard warehouse, stand to face the impact.

Foodlink is asking it's member agencies – about 450 of them – to contact their local state representative, demanding the anti-hunger funding be restored to, at very least, current levels.

"We know we need a community outcry for this to be effective."

Foodlink's website spells out not only the anticipated impact of the cuts and changes, but also how its agencies can fight them.

With more need than ever, says Batiste, the timing is critical.

"It would truly limit our agency's ability to plan, and in some cases I believe some pantries might close their doors."

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