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One in eight Brooklyn residents are food insecure

Graphic via New York City Coalition Against Hunger

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Despite record stock market highs, one in six New York City residents still face food insecurity and hunger, and one in seven Brooklyn children in are food insecure. In addition, 12 percent – one in eight – of Brooklyn residents lived in food insecure households in 2010-2012. The new report – “Superstorm of Hunger: Lingering Shortfalls Expose a Tale of Two Food Cities” – demonstrates how the economic downturn, coupled with Superstorm Sandy, merely exposed and exacerbated the city’s already extensive poverty and hunger. The NYC Coalition Against Hunger unveiled Brooklyn specific findings today at Bed Stuy Campaign Against Hunger.

In the 2010-2012 time period – between 1.3 and 1.4 million New York City residents – including one in five of the city’s children – lived in households that lacked sufficient food. Food insecurity increased by a minimum of 200,000 since the 2006-2008 time frame. These hunger statistics do not yet reflect the impact of the recent large-scale cuts in SNAP (food stamps).

In Brooklyn, 50 percent of feeding agencies reported not having enough food to meet current demand while nearly 92 percent of responding agencies reported an increase in the number of people they served over the past year.

“The economic downturn and Superstorm Sandy ripped the bandages off the festering wounds of hunger and poverty in New York City,” said Joel Berg, executive director of the Coalition. “Low-income people especially faced a tidal wave of pain. Now that the official recession is over and the flood waters have receded, we can clearly see that New York is still suffering from a tale of two food cities.”  

Councilmember Letitia James said, “Today, 70% of New York’s low-income households with children have difficulty affording food, and 20% of our children rely on soup kitchens and food pantries to supplement meals. Food insecurity continues to be a major concern throughout our city, and access to SNAP, food pantries and soup kitchens, tiered food cooperatives, school breakfast programs, and free youth summer lunches is more vital now that ever. I look forward to working with the New York City Coalition Against Hunger to address food insecurity and hardship in our most needy communities.”

“What we’re seeing at the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger since Nov. 1 is families are coming to us for food who have not visited us in the last 2-3 years.” Dr. Melony Samuels, Executive Director, Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger, Brooklyn, NY

New York City’s food pantries and soup kitchens faced an increased demand of 10 percent in 2013, on top of increases of five percent in 2012, 12 percent in 2011, seven percent in 2010, and 29 percent in 2009. Nearly 60 percent of the agencies citywide, and all the agencies in Staten Island, reported that the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy was either the top factor or one contributing factor in the increased need for food by their clients.

“The effects of the economic downturn continue to ripple throughout New York City’s communities. We see it in the lines at local food pantries—lines that continue to grow, even as funding diminishes. We have an obligation to protect our most vulnerable citizens. In one of the wealthiest cities in the world, no child, no senior citizen, no New Yorker should have to worry about going to bed hungry.” – Councilmember Steven Levin, 33rd Council District.

Yet 57 percent of the pantries and kitchens citywide suffered from cuts in combined government and private resources, compared to only 11 percent that benefitted from increased resources.  Due to the federal sequestration and other cuts, the main source of federal operating funds for such agencies has been cut by nearly half since 2009.  Consequently, nearly half (45 percent) reported they lacked sufficient resources to meet the growing demand and nearly half (46 percent) said they were forced to turn people away, reduce the amount of food distributed per person, or limit their hours of operation because they lacked sufficient resources in 2013.

Continued Berg, “It is simply unconscionable that – at a time of record stock prices – the city’s pantries and kitchens are facing such deep budget cuts that half of them have to cut back on food for hungry New Yorkers. This data should provide federal, state, and city officials with a clarion call to significantly ramp up government efforts to combat poverty and hunger, such as universal pre-K.  If the City were to enact Mayor-elect de Blasio’s plan to slightly raise taxes on the wealthiest to pay for universal pre-K, not only would that decrease poverty in the long-term, it would also immediately reduce child hunger because pre-K programs provide nutritious meals funded by the federal government.”

The full report is available at nyccah.org/hungersurvey.

“Our tradition teaches that feeding the hungry is as hard for God as splitting the Red Sea. Hunger in NYC is no easy problem to fix, but if we come together we can make a monumental difference. Working together, we can part the seas of indifference and perform this miraculous task of ending hunger.” Rabbi Marc Katz, Congregation Beth Elohim.

"The SNAP cuts are cruel and unnecessary. The cuts hurt people very badly, and they hurt food retailers. Those who support the cuts violate the core principles of God's will, and hurt local economies, too. The members of Congress who have voted for these cuts mistakenly believe that by taking from others, there will be more for themselves and their wealthy sponsors.  This is an immoral view, and bad economics."  Rev. Robert Emerick, Good Shepherd RC Church, Bay Ridge.

November 27, 2013 - 3:30pm


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