One in four children in New York City are food insecure, and one in ten seniors in the city are also food insecure. As families prepare for the holiday season, numbers indicate that many people in the area are struggling, even though the stock market is doing well. According to a survey report titled, “The Unkindest Cuts: Federal SNAP Cuts Overwhelm Feeding Charities As NYC Hunger Remains High Despite Wall Street Boom,” released this week by the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, many food pantries are struggling to meet the demands.
Recent cuts to food stamps, nearly $14 billion over the past year, coupled with a difficult economic recovery for low-income New Yorkers, has made 2014 an extremely difficult year for hungry New Yorkers.
One in six New York City residents struggles against hunger, and more than nine out of ten local feeding charities face longer lines as a result of federal cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, according to the 2014 Annual Hunger Survey by the New York City Coalition Against Hunger.
The report found that the city’s food pantries and soup kitchens experienced an increased demand of 7 percent in 2014 and 10 percent in 2013, on top of increases of 5 percent in 2012, 12 percent in 2011, 7 percent in 2010 and 29 percent in 2009.
“The startling new data prove that the Wall Street profit bonanza has yet to aid the most vulnerable New Yorkers,” said Joel Berg, executive director of the Coalition Against Hunger.
“It is particularly perverse then, that Washington has slashed federal food aid. Our data prove that, even when Albany and City Hall are taking progressive actions to fight hunger, as they have been, if the federal government abandons the fight, the hunger crises will only worsen.”
As a direct result of the SNAP reductions, 94 percent of New York City food pantries and soup kitchens reported that the cuts had “increased the number of our clients and/or increased the food needs of our existing clients.”
Nearly 45 percent said the demand had been increased “significantly,” and nearly 50 percent said their demand had increased “somewhat.” Only 7.1 percent said the cuts had no impact. Also as a result of SNAP cuts, nearly half of pantries and kitchens reported that they had to turn away clients, reduce the amount of food distributed per person, and/or limit their hours of operation. “Our network of soup kitchens and food pantries has seen a 43 percent increase in visits since 2008; many families need help to consistently put food on the table,” said Kate MacKenzie, director, Policy & Government Relations, City Harvest. “Many residents visiting soup kitchens and food pantries are working but are still unable to make ends meet, and they don’t qualify for government support programs like SNAP.”
Although Gov. Andrew Cuomo was able to take administrative action to prevent some of the cuts from being implemented in New York State, federal mandates still reduced the average household SNAP benefit in New York City by $19 per month, equaling a $228 reduction in groceries per year.
“This administration is committed to working on a number of initiatives to increase both access to food and purchasing power for families who are food insecure,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “From increasing wages to focusing on closing the gap between people who are eligible for SNAP and those getting benefits to substantially increasing participation in free summer meals for over 8 million children this year, we are ensuring that New Yorkers have food on their tables so they can begin to get back on their feet and contribute to our city’s growth.”
Public Advocate Letitia James said while hunger continues to be an issue in the city, the survey gives a clear picture on what the city needs to do. “New York City’s hunger needs continue to rise, as approximately 1.3 million city residents are food insecure, including one in four children,” she said. “The release of the 2014 Hunger Survey will provide a portrait of the overall need, so that we may begin to develop policies to target these issues.”