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3.1 Million New Yorkers Having Difficulty Affording Food As Prices Rise

New Study Finds Middle Income, College Educated and Employed New Yorkers Struggling with Food Costs

Wednesday, June 11, 2008The number of New York City residents experiencing difficulty affording needed food over the past year has steadily increased to 3.1 million in 2007, 55 percent higher than 2 million in 2003,[1] according to NYC Hunger Experience 2008, the fifth in a series of reports tracking difficulty affording needed food among New Yorkers. NYC Hunger Experience 2008 was released today at City Hall by the Food Bank For New York City and Speaker Christine Quinn. Those in attendance included Council Members Bill de Blasio, Joel Rivera, Eric Gioia, and Letitia James.

"In the present down-turned economy, more and more New Yorkers are falling behind in their fight to make stagnant wages and fixed incomes stretch" said Dr. Lucy Cabrera, President and CEO of Food Bank For New York City. "While the hardest hit are our city's poorest and most vulnerable neighbors, record numbers of middle-income families are joining the ranks of New Yorkers who are having difficulty affording needed food. Community and government leadership is needed to solve this food poverty crisis, and New Yorkers need a city budget that reflects the severity of the situation they find themselves in."

"With skyrocketing food prices adding to the burden of rising rents, gas prices, and other costs, millions of New Yorkers are having a difficult time putting food on the table for their families," said Speaker Quinn. "This report shows that hunger is affecting New Yorkers of every age, and that middle income New Yorkers are among the hardest hit. The City Council has been working to help more families access food relief programs like food stamps, school breakfast and lunch, and summer meals. We need to increase those efforts to help combat the frightening trend of hunger in our city."

In contrast to common perceptions, middle-income New Yorkers are among the hardest hit by the rising cost of living. The percentage of New Yorkers with incomes of $50,000 to $74,999 having difficulty affording food almost doubled from 14 percent in 2003 to more than one-quarter (27 percent) in 2007. Similarly, among residents with annual household incomes between $25,000 and $49,999 the percentage experiencing difficulty affording food doubled from 21 percent in 2003 to 42 percent in 2007. Employed New Yorkers and residents with college educations are also having an increasingly difficult time affording food.

"Rising food prices are a major problem facing our city," said Council General Welfare Committee Chair Bill de Blasio. "In Brooklyn, the number of residents having difficulty affording food increased 63% over the past four years. It is unacceptable that now over 1 million Brooklynites are unable to adequately feed themselves and their families."

NYC Hunger Experience 2008 also reveals that approximately 1.6 million New Yorkers would not be able to afford needed food for themselves and their families immediately after the loss of their household incomes in 2007, up from 1.3 million (17 percent) in 2003 — a 24 percent increase. These findings demonstrate that a staggering number of New Yorkers live paycheck to paycheck and have little or no savings to fall back on in the event of hardships such as illness, layoffs or rising prices. Demonstrating a lack of savings among middle-income families, more than one-quarter (26 percent) of New York City households with annual incomes between $25,000 and $49,999 would be unable to afford food immediately after a loss of household income, up from 16 percent in 2003 — a 63 percent increase.

"Rising food prices have made hunger not just an issue for the poorest New Yorkers, but also for New York's increasingly struggling middle class," said Council Member Eric Gioia. "The problem of hunger in New York City is a problem that all New Yorkers should care about and one that we have the obligation to eliminate. It's criminal that in the richest city in the richest country in the world, millions of people worry about putting food on their families plates."

The rising number of New Yorkers with difficulty affording food and no savings is not surprising given the down-turned economy and the increasing cost of living, including high food prices. The cost of food at home for the New York City metro region increased 15 percent from 2003 to 2007.[2]

"Too many children are going to bed hungry in New York City," said Council Member Letitia James. "As the richest city in the country we have a moral responsibility to respond to this ongoing crisis by increasing access to food stamps and protections against price gouging."

In addition, Hunger Experience 2008 found approximately one out of every three (32 percent) elderly New Yorkers age 65 and older had difficulty affording food in 2007 — up from 23 percent in 2003. Compounding the issue, the number of New York City residents age 65 and older is expected to increase by approximately 45 percent over the next two decades;[3] this trend could trigger a crisis as a larger population of elderly residents has difficulty affording food.

Food Bank For New York City contracts with Marist College Institute for Public Opinion to conduct telephone interviews with a random and representative sample of city residents. Socio-demographic findings identify which populations throughout the five boroughs are having the greatest difficulty affording food throughout the year in order to inform policy solutions and address the problem of food poverty. This report includes five years of trend analysis from 2003 (the earliest year the poll was conducted) through 2007.[4]

Food Bank For New York City recognizes 25 years as the city's major provider of food to New Yorkers in need. The organization works to end hunger and increase access to affordable, nutritious food for low-income New Yorkers through a range of programs and services that focus on food procurement and distribution, education, nutrition, financial empowerment, research and policy.

Food Bank For New York City procures and distributes food through more than 1,000 emergency and community food programs, assisting the approximately 1.3 million New Yorkers who access emergency food. The organization provides food safety, networking and capacity-building workshops; manages nutrition education programs for schools, after-school and emergency food programs; operates food stamp outreach and education programs; operates senior programs, a soup kitchen, and food pantry; coordinates the largest Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) program in the country; and conducts research and develops policy to inform community and government efforts to end hunger throughout the five boroughs.

The Food Bank has been given the top four-star rating for excellence and efficiency in the successful management of organizational finances for the third year in a row from Charity Navigator, the nation's largest independent charity evaluator. For every dollar donated to the Food Bank, 96 cents goes toward food acquisition, distribution and programs. For additional information, go to

[1] The earliest available data available is from 2003.

[2] Consumer Price Index. United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.

[3] New York City Population Projections by Age/Sex & Borough, 2000-2030 Report. (2006). New York City Department of City Planning.

[4] The 2007 data were collected in February 2008 and, therefore, reflect New York City residents' experiences from February 2007 through February 2008.

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