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Millions of New Yorkers to benefit from new food hunger program

The new "Restaurant Meal Program" starts January 1, 2022.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Food insecurity has always been a serious concern, well before the challenges of COVID-19. 

Since the start of the pandemic, organizations like FeedMore WNY have been on the frontlines fighting to bridge the hunger gap - but it hasn't been easy. 

On Monday, Governor Hochul signed a new program, the "Restaurant Meals Program" (RMP), in hopes of easing the hunger burden for millions of New Yorkers, including the elderly, homeless and disabled, who rely on SNAP benefits. Starting January 1, 2022, those New Yorkers will be able to purchase hot meals for affordable prices using their EBT cards.

FeedMore WNY is familiar with this concept and operates a similar program of their own, "Meals On Wheels." Catherine Shick is the Chief Communications Officer and says Governor Hochul's program will be a game-changer and will touch the lives of even more people - especially for the most vulnerable. 

"It can be a challenge to prepare food," Shick tells 2 On Your Side. "Whether they don't have access to cooking equipment or the ability to cook food and prepare food for themselves. So this program will be an incredible benefit for them in terms of accessing healthy, nutritious food so they can get the nutrients they need to live a healthy impactful life."

SNAP is a lifeline for many New Yorkers, especially with the continuing effects of COVID-19 still being felt across the world. 

"So many people experienced job loss, layoffs, there are so many different stories we have heard serving Western New York," Shick says. "So many people who use SNAP are actually folks who also rely on our charitable food assistance. So for so many people, it does go hand-in-hand."

This is why FeedMore WNY has its own SNAP coordination, for people 60 and up.

In an interview, Shick tells 2 On Your Side, "Hunger really is 365 days a year. This is why this program is going to be critical. It can be a very private struggle for so many individuals."