Alone in a new country with young children and no access to work, migrant mothers told CBS News they’re worried about the food available for their families in the New York City shelters.
Three migrant women living in the shelters, Angelica, Osranary and Michelle, were in agreement when asked about their thoughts on the food, saying it’s “not good.”
Osranary, who arrived about a month ago, said most of the food they’re given is pasta and salad, which isn’t always appropriate for young children.
Angelica, who arrived with her family in New York three months ago, said certain foods her infant needs and likes, such as instant cereal, aren’t available.
Right now, up to an estimated 1,000 migrantsevery day. Officials say the shelter system is becoming overwhelmed and resources are running thin.
“Almost 100,000 migrants have arrived in the past year, and almost 60,000 of them are still in the shelter system,” said Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine.
Levine said taking care of those migrants isroughly $10 million every day.
“The problem is that the federal government hasn’t made funding available,” said Levine. “New York’s managing this on their own, and we’ve done amazingly well, for the past year, with 100,000 arrivals, but it’s getting to the point where it’s getting harder and harder and harder, we really need help.”
Part of the challenge is that some New Yorkers who are eligible for state and federal food assistance programs don’t have access — and that means they’re eating at soup kitchens and using food banks, which are easier to access.
“If more people who were eligible for SNAP got it, the soup kitchens and food pantries would have more food left over for the migrants who are ineligible for other programs,” said Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America. The nonprofit helps people who are eligible for food assistance get it, including the relatively few migrants who do qualify.
A partnership between Hunger Free America and the City of New York in October gives the nonprofit direct access to the city-run shelters, so advocates can connect asylum-seekers with federal and state-funded food benefits.
“The federal government needs to do more, but it’s an absolute cop-out for state or city officials to say they can’t do better and more,” said Berg. “There are many federal resources that they’re not utilizing that already exist.”
Berg, who also served as a senior official in the USDA during the Clinton administration, said the dollar value of food resources available through federally funded food safety-net programs, like SNAP and WIC, far surpass what food charities are able to provide.
“These wonderful charities are doing this incredible work and they need all the resources they can get,” said Berg. “But we really shouldn’t overlook the need to maximize use of federal resources.”
Some of the migrants arriving in the U.S. can almost immediately take advantage of WIC, which stands for Women, Infants and Children. The federally funded initiative provides pregnant women and caretakers of young children with a debit-style card to purchase certain nutritious foods — including formula for infants and baby food for toddlers.
“WIC doesn’t take into account the immigration status of those who participate. So it is one of the first programs that they can access,” said Lily Dosina, the WIC Program Manager at Hunger Free America.
Since October, Dosina has been going to different shelters and attending outreach events to help facilitate the process of signing pregnant women and young children up for food benefits.
While the shelters do provide food to the migrant families living there, the options aren’t always ideal and can be instantly taken away if a family is unable to stay at a shelter overnight. WIC gives those who are eligible more food security and freedom.
One migrant woman applying for WIC benefits told CBS News she has been in New York City for less than two weeks. She said one day her family was told there was an issue processing their paperwork and she needed to re-submit. While she waited for it to be processed, she spent the night sleeping on the street with her young child. That left them without food or other necessities provided by the shelter.
Levine said without additional federal aid, the level of services being provided will only decline.