From budgeting to food stamps, we've got you covered

Volume CX, No. 5May, 2010

Cindy Green, LCSW

When you live in New York City, it can become a logistical and emotional challenge to prioritize food shopping when everything seems equally important.

And food shopping in New York City is expensive. According to the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, one out of six households faces food insecurity.

This month, we’d like to offer suggestions on ways to manage your food budget and food resources.

Keeping a food budget and changing the way you shop for food are helpful ways to reduce the amount of money you spend on food.

  • Check the local newspaper for sales and the back of grocery receipts and junk mail for coupons.
  • When something is on sale, buy it in bulk if you can so you don’t have to spend more money later.
  • Always make a list before going to the store.
  • Never shop when you’re hungry.

When shopping with kids, it’s reasonable to expect that they’ll ask for things in the store. Always saying no to them can be tough, so plan a spending limit that you can afford. It’s a great opportunity to give them early lessons in budgeting. You’ll also be providing them a good model for comparison shopping, using coupons and setting limits.

If your food needs are more challenging than a change in habit, there are places in each of the five boroughs that offer free groceries through food pantries and free prepared meals through soup kitchens.

To find an agency in your neighborhood, offers a series of comprehensive guides that cover the whole city and provide information about where to find these resources. Some agencies may require a referral. To inquire, call the NYC Emergency Food Line at (866) 888-8777.

Additional food resources can be found at Simply click on the “Links and Resources” button located on the home page. You’ll find a variety of resources.

For example Angel Food Ministries is a national program that operates through local churches. You do not have to be a member of the church to participate and there are no income requirements. The cost is $30 for a box of food that should feed a family of four for a week or a single adult for a month.

Another possible option is the food stamp program which provides food support to low-income New Yorkers, including working families, the elderly and the disabled.

To receive food stamp benefits, a household must qualify under income eligibility rules set by the federal government.

There is sometimes a perceived stigma attached to receiving food stamps. It’s time to dispel any misconceptions: hundreds of thousands of people who are eligible for food stamps are not taking advantage of the program.

Food stamps are not welfare; the program is considered “work support.” This means food stamps are used by people looking for work or by those who are employed but not making enough to make ends meet.

Food stamps allow people to maintain a lower wage job, keeping them off public assistance.

The food stamps program is funded, in part, by sales taxes, so you are helping to fund the program whenever you make a purchase. The food stamps program generates more money than it costs in local economic activity. It is not a drain on local economies; it actually helps to improve them.

Senior citizens in need can investigate local senior centers that often offer meals for a small, voluntary contribution. Or, if you cannot leave your home, you can receive home delivered food from Meals on Wheels.

Pregnant women or mothers of young children should know about the Women, Infants and Children, a program that provide food and formula. Children can get free meals at school and through the summer. Participating in WIC will not affect your food stamps or welfare and you can continue to work and receive WIC.

At the MAP office, we can help you look at budgeting and help you manage financial fears. We can assist you in finding local food resources and ensuring you and your family have enough to eat. You and your loved ones will not go hungry. Please contact us at (212) 397-4802 or