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Demand for Food Assistance Continues to Soar Eight Months After 9/11 According to Study of City's Emergency Food Programs

New York, NY, June 7, 2002 — As the city government considers eliminating a vital anti-hunger program from its budget, more than 80 percent of the emergency food programs throughout the city report an unrelenting surge in demand for food since September 11. According to preliminary results from Changes in Demand for Food Assistance at New York City Emergency Food Programs After September 11, 2001, conducted by Food For Survival, the food bank for New York City, 75 percent of food pantries and 67 percent of the soup kitchens are seeing sustained medium-to-high levels of demand for their services over the past eight months. The vast majority of these food relief programs report unemployment, low wages and homelessness as key contributing factors to the city's persistent rise in hunger.

Food For Survival is releasing its preliminary survey results in time for National Hunger Awareness Day on Wednesday, June 5. The study showed that both soup kitchens and food pantries — major providers of food to the more than 1.5 million hungry people in New York City — are experiencing a steady rise in demand for food that, at the very least, equals levels seen immediately after 9/11. For food pantries, whose clientele consist of mostly families and working poor, demand has now reached its highest point over the eight-month period — over 54 percent of food pantries are currently seeing a "high" demand for food, compared to 38 percent immediately following the WTC tragedy.

"The working poor, including low-skilled laborers and hourly workers, were the first to feel the day-to-day lifestyle effects that resulted from 9/11," says Lucy Cabrera, Ph.D., president and CEO of Food For Survival. "Hunger in the city has extended into many more people's lives than ever before. We're now seeing more single mothers with children standing on line at food pantries, construction workers coming to soup kitchens during their lunch hour and even children coming alone to receive a free meal."

The study revealed unemployment as the number one reason cited by food pantries (85 percent) and soup kitchens (87 percent) for the surge in demand for food assistance. More than two-thirds of food pantries also reported insufficient wages and 70 percent of soup kitchens added homelessness to their list of key factors causing more people to turn to emergency food assistance.

Proposed City Budget Cuts Would Eliminate 15 Million Pounds of Food for Needy
The emergency food programs queried for the study reported overwhelmingly that food and operating funds were the greatest needs after September 11. Meanwhile, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed elimination of the city's Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP) in his contingency plan for the 2003 New York City budget — which provided over 14.7 million pounds of food to the city's food pantries and soup kitchens citywide last year — would severely hamper emergency food programs' ability to serve the ever-growing number of needy New Yorkers.

About half of Food For Survival's network of 1,200 nonprofit community food programs — 618 soup kitchens and food pantries — would be affected. Last year these programs used EFAP food to serve more than 8.8 million meals to hungry New Yorkers throughout the five boroughs, including families with children, the elderly, the homeless, low-income workers and people with AIDS. For more than one-third of these food programs, EFAP is their main source of food.

"These budget cuts could force a number of our food programs to close," says Margarette Purvis, Vice President of Programs and Services at Food For Survival. "Coupled with cutbacks that we're already experiencing in state and federal sources of support, the elimination of EFAP could leave more hungry New Yorkers with fewer places to turn for food assistance. Or worse, it could ultimately leave them with no options at all."

Food Distribution Reaches Record High Levels
Since September 11, Food For Survival has seen a continual increase in its food distribution, while experiencing a decline in food donations. In April, the food bank distributed 5.8 million pounds of food, compared to 3.3 million pounds distributed in April 2001 (a 80% increase). March distribution weighed in 56 percent higher than the year before — 6.7 million pounds distributed in March 2002 compared to 4.3 million for March 2001. Meanwhile food donations have dropped off 25 percent since the beginning of the year.

"We don't see an end in sight to the ever-growing levels of hunger," reports Dr. Cabrera. "Hunger in our city was on the rise before the weakened economy, the high unemployment rates and the tragic events of September 11. What we need now is a collaborative effort with the city, state and federal government to embark on initiatives that address both feeding the hungry and ending hunger once and for all."

Food For Survival, the food bank for New York City, was founded in 1983 to coordinate the procurement and distribution of food donations from manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and government agencies to organizations providing free food to the hungry. A member of America's Second Harvest, Food For Survival is now the largest food bank and one of the largest distributors of free fresh produce in the country, providing food for 1.5 million needy New Yorkers. Food For Survival provides the food for over 200,000 meals served each day by more than 1,200 nonprofit community food programs — including soup kitchens, food pantries, shelters, low-income day care centers, Kids Cafes, and senior, youth and rehabilitative centers — throughout the five boroughs of New York City.

Food For Survival works to end hunger by organizing food, information, and support for community survival and dignity.


Lisa Jakobsberg

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