By Bill Parry
A survey released just before Thanksgiving shows that one in six New York City residents struggles against hunger while food pantries are finding it difficult to meet demands this year.
The study, by the Coalition Against Hunger, shows that nine out of 10 feeding charities face longer lines as a result of federal cuts to SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
The report, presented at the Bread of Life Food Pantry in Long Island City last week, found that the city’s food pantries and soup kitchens experienced an increased demand of 7 percent in 2014 and 10 percent in 2013. In fact, the percentage has risen by double digits every year since 2009.
“The startling new data proves that the Wall Street profit bonanza has yet to aid the most vulnerable New Yorkers,” Coalition Executive Director Joel Berg said. “In past recoveries, a rising economic tide lifted all boats, but now it’s only lifting the yachts. It is particularly perverse that Washington has slashed federal food aid. Our data proves 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 crisis will only worsen.”
As a direct result of SNAP cuts, 92.9 percent of New York City food pantries and soup kitchens report that the cuts have “increased the number of our clients and/or increased the food needs of our existing clients.”
Nearly half said the demand had risen “significantly” and that they had to turn away clients, reduce the amount of food distributed per person, and/or limit their hours of operation.
The report, released at the Bread of Life Food Pantry in Long Island City, demonstrates how the recent SNAP cuts, nearly $14 billion over the last year, coupled with a difficult economic recovery for low-income city residents, has made it an extremely tough year for hungry New Yorkers.
“Food insecurity and hunger remain as devastating realities for too many New York families,” U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said. “The release of this data shows that there is more work left to be done to provide healthy, safe and nutritious food to the one-in-ten individuals who are food-insecure, and to the 1.7 million children receiving subsidized school meals across New York state.”
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 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,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “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.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 260–4538.