New Research: Temporary Increases to Hunger Relief in '09 Result in Fewer New Yorkers Having Difficulty Affording Food, But Rising Unemployment, Poverty, and Food Insecurity Make Quick Fixes Unsustainable

Saturday, November 21, 2009 General News
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NEW YORK, Nov. 20 New research released today by the Food Bank For New York City -- NYC Hunger Experience 2009: A Year in Recession -- reveals that the number of New York City residents experiencing difficulty affording food decreased from 3.9 million (48 percent) in 2008 to 3.3 million (40 percent) in 2009 - even though 11 percent of households in New York are experiencing food insecurity, and New York City's unemployment rate is up to 10.3 percent. This reflects, in part, the real and immediate impact of the response from government and the private sector to the economic crisis over the past year, including the federal stimulus package (the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, or ARRA).

With many of the measures to provide food assistance over the past year, like ARRA, set to expire, the Food Bank is calling for their extension, and for a focus on sustainable solutions that address the underlying causes of the entrenched food poverty problem in New York City. While the number of New Yorkers having difficulty affording food has dropped since last year, the current-year figure reflects a 60 percent increase from 2003, the first time this survey was conducted.

"The past year has proven it is possible to address food poverty when government, individuals, and philanthropic and charitable organizations recognize and work together to respond," said Lucy Cabrera, Ph.D., President and CEO of the Food Bank For New York City. "Nevertheless, last year's response, however successful, was temporary, and leaves us with a tremendous gap in resources while need is still high. Now is not the time to pull back support - especially when we've seen it works. And only sustainable solutions will drive down food poverty."

Most of the support increases that made such a positive impact on the level of food poverty among New Yorkers will not recur. ARRA bolstered resources for emergency food, food stamp benefit allotments, the Earned Income Tax Credit, unemployment benefits and other supports for low- and middle-income households, but all of those increases were designed to be temporary. Further, emergency food for New York City from The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) budgeted for the current federal fiscal year (FFY 2010) is half the amount received last year.

New and/or increased donations and support for emergency food from the private sector, including foundations, corporations and individuals, helped address the shortage at food pantries and soup kitchens - 93 percent of which have seen an increase in first-time visitors over the past year - continued joblessness and shrinking assets make it unlikely that this support will be sustained at the same level through 2010.

With two in five New Yorkers now having difficulty affording food, the near-term loss of resources to provide the support that helped many weather the economic crisis over the past year, leaves New York City poised on the edge of a precipice and without sustainable long-term solutions like living wage jobs and affordable housing and health care, unable to address the increasing pervasiveness and permanence of food poverty.

About NYC Hunger Experience 2009

The Food Bank commissioned the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion to conduct a survey to determine residents' ability to afford food. Data were collected by phone interview, which consisted of three questions developed by the Food Bank in collaboration with Marist College. This year, telephone interviews were conducted using random digit dialing to land-lines and cell phone numbers on October 19th, 20th, and 21st 2009. A total of 885 New York City residents ages 18 and older were interviewed. Interviews were administered in English and Spanish by trained interviewers from a centralized location. Up to three attempts to establish contact were made per telephone number. Results are based on a final weighted data set that reflects interview responses provided to the Food Bank by Marist College. To ensure proportionality, statistics were weighted by borough, income, age, race/ethnicity and gender population data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Results are significant at the + 3.5 percent level.

About Food Bank For New York City

Food Bank For New York City recognizes 26 years as the city's major hunger-relief organization working to end food poverty throughout the five boroughs. The Food Bank works to increase access to affordable, nutritious food for low-income New Yorkers through a range of programs and services that focus on food sourcing and distribution, education and nutrition, financial empowerment, disaster relief and policy and research.

Food Bank For New York City sources and distributes food to a network of approximately 1,000 food assistance programs citywide, helping to provide 300,000 free meals a day to New Yorkers in need. The Food Bank strengthens the impact of our network through food safety and capacity-building workshops; offers a hands-on nutrition education program to New York City public schools, reaching over 14,000 children, teens and adults; conducts food stamp prescreening and outreach; operates a Senior Food Program, a soup kitchen and a food pantry; coordinates the largest civilian Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) program in the country; and develops policy and conducts research to inform community and government efforts to end food poverty throughout New York City.

Every dollar donated to the Food Bank helps provide five meals to New Yorkers in need. As an independent, nonprofit 501(c )3 organization, the Food Bank meets the Better Business Bureau's charity standards. The Food Bank is a certified member of both Feeding America and the Food Bank Association of New York State. For additional information, visit

SOURCE Food Bank For New York City

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