Aldermen debate food stamps

The Board of Aldermen’s Human Services Committee authorized a proposal to provide job education training to food stamp recipients.
The Board of Aldermen’s Human Services Committee authorized a proposal to provide job education training to food stamp recipients. Photo by Sebastian Medina-Tayac.

A new proposal working its way though city government could win hundreds of thousands of dollars of job training for food stamp beneficiaries.

In a meeting Wednesday night, the New Haven Board of Aldermen’s Human Services Committee unanimously authorized a proposal to secure over half a million dollars from the Connecticut Department of Social Services to continue Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Employment & Training (SNAP E&T) in New Haven, an employment readiness and education program for unemployed adults in exchange for food stamps.

Frederick Kaiser testified to the work of the City of New Haven SAGA Support Services, or SSS, of which he is deputy director. SSS works with single unemployed adults receiving SNAP benefits and provides group orientations and monthly activities for these adults to get job education training, the end goal being to enhance their capabilities of finding employment and getting back into the job market.

SSS disseminates monthly mass mailings to about 800 prospective clients and also provides these clients with resources for transportation. If the proposal is approved by the DSS, it would represent 14 straight years of funding for the SAGA Support Services program.

Ward 1 Alderman Sarah Eidelson ’12 said the SNAP E&T grant will be an important step in reducing New Haven’s 8.3 percent unemployment rate, which is 1.4 percent above the national average according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“It is working to address the unemployment crisis in New Haven,” Eidelson said. “Anything that does this has to be a top priority.”

Another important item on the meeting agenda was the endorsement and the approval of the Food Action Plan from the New Haven Food Policy Council by the Human Services Committee. The NHFPC is a volunteer advisory council that consists of 12 New Haven residents from various parts of the local food system.

The NHFPC has drafted a Food Action Plan, which according to plan materials, is responsible for reviewing the key characteristics of New Haven’s food environment and proposing strategies that will move the city toward a more sustainable and healthy food system. Some of the items discussed during the meeting Wednesday included New Haven’s high rate of obesity compared to that of the state of Connecticut and the country as a whole, and the increasing rate of food insecurity among low-income households.

A key goal of the Food Action Plan is to increase access to healthy food for all people in New Haven, which includes those on SNAP benefits, through initiatives such as developing community and school gardens. Sebastian Koochaki ’14, one of the co-directors of Yale’s Hunger and Homelessness Action Project, said that “as SNAP benefits stand now, it is near impossible to have a healthy, nutritious diet.” He added that New Haven needs to “increase access to food by promoting the inclusion of grocery stores and other food markets throughout the city.”

Following the Human Service Committee’s unanimous vote to endorse the Food Action Plan, it will now move to the full Board of Aldermen, which will discuss the item and then put it to a vote of approval.

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