New reports shows increased food insufficiency
by Andrew Shilling
Dec 04, 2013 | 3061 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Pictured from left to right are Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, Louis Vavrina, Lisa Levy, Bishop Mitchell Taylor, and Abigael Burke, food pantry coordinator at Hour Children.
Pictured from left to right are Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, Louis Vavrina, Lisa Levy, Bishop Mitchell Taylor, and Abigael Burke, food pantry coordinator at Hour Children.
While millions hit the road and traveled to spend Thanksgiving with their families over the weekend, the New York City Coalition Against Hunger (NYCCAH) traveled to soup kitchens and pantries to help feed and spread awareness of the nearly 1.5 million city residents who live in households that lack sufficient food.

In a new study the organization released last week called “Superstorm of Hunger: Lingering Shortfalls Expose a Tale of Two Food Cities,” the group found that between 2010 and 2012 one in 10 Queens residents lived in food insecure households, and that nearly 43 percent of the borough’s feeding agencies reported not having enough to keep up with the growing demand.

One in six residents citywide face the same reality, while soup kitchens in the city have seen a 10 percent increase in demand in 2013. That increase comes in addition to a 5 percent increase in 2012, 12 percent in 2011, 7 percent in 2010, and a 29 percent increase in 2009.

“Sixty percent of the agencies citywide, and all of the agencies in Staten Island, reported that the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy was either the top factor or one of the contributing factors for the increased need for food for their clients,” said Lisa Levy, director of Policy, Advocacy and Organizing for NYCCAH.

According to the study, one in 10 seniors above the age of 60 are food insecure and half of the children in the Bronx are food insecure.

Levy suggested that Universal Pre-K would help reduce hunger among children.

“In classrooms, children would be provided with breakfast or lunch or both by the federal government,” she said.

Meanwhile, families of four that once received $668 per month in Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, had that amount cut by $36.

As a single man living on SNAP benefits, Louis Vavrina said he personally feels for the hardships that families face, as well as the business owners that accept SNAP benefits.

“Yes, these cuts are taking food out of families' baskets, but in effect it’s taking cash from these merchants’ pockets,” Vavrina explained. “It’s not just the families who are receiving SNAP that are going to be effected by the cuts.”

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer called the fight against hunger and saving SNAP benefits as, “one of the moral issues of our time.”

“The fact that one child would go hungry in this city, in this country, is an absolute disgrace,” Van Bramer said. “The fact that people think that we should cut SNAP, that we’re doing too much to try and feed people in this city, in this country, that is shameful, that is immoral and that absolutely is dead wrong.”

Bishop Mitchell Taylor, senior pastor at Urban Upbound in Astoria, said he has noticed the recent hardships his congregation has felt from the SNAP cuts.

“The support we get locally and nationally is constantly diminishing,” Taylor said. “We were told that we had to give away more food to continue to qualify for local assistance from prominent nonprofit food providers. How do you do that while your sources continue to run dry?”

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