Health advocates and major upstate New York food retailers including Price Chopper and Tops Friendly Markets are calling for an increase in the SNAP program to combat food insecurity in the Empire State via letters sent to Gov. Kathy Hochul.

According to data from the state Department of Health, nearly one in four adults (24.9%) experience food insecurity, with some counties seeing that rate skyrockets to two out of five adults. Recent USDA research found that one in five children are experiencing food insecurity in the United States.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, sends benefits to a card similar to a debit card which people can use to purchase food. In New York, a single individual, with earned income who is not elderly or disabled, can qualify for SNAP benefits if they make less than $1,823 a month or $21,876 per year. The maximum allotment in New York for a single individual is $291 or $9.70 per day.

The New York State Association for Rural Health and the food retailers outlined their support for legislation sponsored by Syracuse Democratic state Sen. Rachel May and Queens Democratic Assemblymember Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, which would guarantee a monthly SNAP benefit of $100. The legislation currently sits in their respective chamber’s Social Services committees.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, SNAP benefits were temporarily expanded, however that expanded benefit has expired. Both letters say that with the expiration of this benefit households saw an average loss of $151 per month with some New Yorkers going down to the minimum SNAP benefit of $23 per month.

In their letters, the association and food retailers argue that the expansion would affirm “food security as a basic human right” and adds that the program stimulates local economies while reducing poverty.