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1 in 7 Children Live at Risk of Hunger in New York State


135,000 Children in New York State Under the Age of Five are Food Insecure 

New Report Released by Feeding America:
Child Food Insecurity in the United States: 2005 – 2007

New York—May 7, 2009 - New research released today by Feeding America reveals that New York State has the third highest number of food insecure children throughout the U.S. Approximately 668,000 children (15 percent) in New York ages 0 to 17 are food insecure meaning they have inconsistent access to enough food for a healthy and active life. Among New York State’s food insecure children, one out of every five (135,500) are age four and under, sixth highest in the U.S.

Nationally, the report — Child Food Insecurity in the United States: 2005-2007— states that 3.5 million children, ages five and under, are food insecure. More than 12 million U.S. children in total, are food insecure – unable to consistently access adequate amounts of nutritious food necessary for a healthy life.

Even as New York has one of the highest populations of food insecure children in the country, these figures do not provide the full picture of food poverty among children. Census data show that more than 844,000 children, 19 percent, live below the federal poverty level (approximately $18,000 for a family of three) and 1.7 million, 39 percent, live below 200 percent of poverty (approximately $37,000 for a family of three).  Research on living costs has shown that families need an income of at least 200 percent of poverty to meet basic needs. 

Food insecurity measures are likely to under represent difficulty affording food as the data only captures individuals and households not able to access enough food and can miss households that rely on the assistance of soup kitchens, food pantries and government benefits such as food stamps (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) as a means to ensure that their family has enough to eat.

The Food Bank For New York City is the primary provider of food to city’s approximately 1,000 emergency food organization, with a strong focus on households with children. According to the Food Bank’s report, Child Hunger: The Unhealthy Return on Missed Investments, as of 2007 more than one out of ever five children (397,000) in New York City is relying on soup kitchens and food pantries, up 48 percent from 269,000 in 2004.  Notably, children account for 43 percent of the overall increase in the city residents, from one million to 1.3 million, relying on emergency food during this same period. 

New York City households with children remain among the most vulnerable. In 2008, 56 percent of households with children had difficulty affording needed food, up from 32 percent in 2003 (a 75 percent increase) and up from 45 percent in 2007 (a 24 percent increase). (NYC Hunger Experience Update 2008: Food Poverty Soars as Recession Hits Home)

The negative impact of food insecurity in children is tremendous. The first three years of life are the most critical period of brain growth and development.  Food insecurity effects physical, behavioral and mental health, development and academic achievement and puts children at risk for illness and a weak immune system.  In addition, research shows that children living in food-insecure household have more difficulty concentrating in school than children in food-secure households, and the results of this condition have been linked to grade repetition, absenteeism, tardiness, anxiety, aggression, poor math scores, and difficulty with social interaction among 6 to 12 year olds.

“At the Food Bank For New York City we know how to fix the problem of childhood food insecurity but it will take a strong commitment from the public and private sectors working together to build a prosperous future for all children,” said Dr. Lucy Cabrera, President & CEO of the Food Bank For New York City. “We urge Congress to make adequate investments of at least $20 billion over five years and support policy improvements in the Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill this year to strengthen quality and efficiency, fill in the gaps of food service and offer creative ideas for new and innovative approaches.”

 1 American Community Survey. (2007). United States Census Bureau.
 2 Measuring Income and Poverty in the United States. National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University.

 

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