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Less Food on the Table: Food Bank for New York City Releases 2010 NYC Hunger Experience Report


New York, NY, January 11, 2011 — The recession has depleted the savings of the lowest-income New Yorkers, leaving them even more vulnerable to food poverty.  In addition, NYC residents are making  sacrifices such as reducing their food intake and the quality of their food to get by financially.  These are two of the key findings of Less Food on the Table, the Food Bank For New York City’s 2010 edition of the NYC Hunger Experience report series — an annual opinion poll conducted in collaboration with Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.

The report was released today at a press conference by the Food Bank at its 19th Annual Agency Conference, a day-long event that brings together more than 600 members of the city's hunger-relief community to discuss solution for ending food poverty. 

Speaking at the press conference were Dr. Lucy Cabrera, President & CEO of the Food Bank For New York City; Áine Duggan, Food Bank Vice President of Research, Policy &Education; Rev. Terry Troia, Executive Director, Project Hospitality (Staten Island); and Stephen Grimaldi, Executive Director, Yorkville Common Pantry (Manhattan). The Conference was held at the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel in mid-town Manhattan. 
 
This citywide report offers new insight into what it means for low-income New Yorkers to experience a jobless recovery and the lengths to which families must go to keep food on the table. 

"Recent New Year celebrations are still fresh in all our minds, and many of us will have heard the upbeat and positive predictions for our economy in 2011," said Lucy Cabrera, Ph.D., President & CEO of the Food Bank For New York City. "However, I think the findings in today’s report give us some pause and remind us that the road to recovery will be a long and difficult journey for the millions of New Yorkers who are still living with the effects of the recession, many of whom are turning to organizations like the Food Bank and our network of soup kitchens and food pantries for help." 


“This report clearly shows that New Yorkers are still facing serious difficulty when it comes to affording food despite reports that the economic recession is over,” said Speaker Christine Quinn.  “In one of the greatest cities in the world, no one should have to wonder where their next meal will come from. I want to thank the Food Bank for this comprehensive report and everyone must pitch in to make sure New Yorkers are not food insecure.”

Key report findings of Less Food on the Table are below:

There is some good news to report.  Fewer New Yorkers are having difficulty affording food than at the height of the recession.  At the start of the recession in 2008,  the percentage of New Yorkers having difficulty affording food spiked to almost one-half (48 percent), the highest level since the start of the poll in 2003. Once stimulus funding and resources began to flow to those in need, the percentage experiencing difficulty dropped to 40 percent in 2009. This year, 37 percent of New York City residents experienced difficulty affording food, similar to 2007 (38 percent), just before the recession started.  

While we applaud this trend, there are some worrisome finding in the new report that give us pause:

Despite the fact that there has been a decrease from the peak recession levels in 2008, the number of city residents experiencing difficulty affording food has increased 48 percent since 2003. 

Further, just to keep basic food on the table, about one in three New Yorkers has reduced  food quality or intake. The poll findings indicate that many New Yorkers have only been able to maintain their ability to afford food during the recession by making terrible sacrifices: approximately one out of three New York City residents reduced their food intake (30 percent) and the quality of their food (29 percent); approximately one out of every four were forced to choose between paying for food and transportation (25 percent) or between food and rent or mortgage (23 percent).

The recession has depleted the savings of the lowest-income New Yorkers, leaving them even more vulnerable to food poverty. Households with incomes below $25,000 were the only group to experience an increase in difficulty affording food within the past year — all other income groups either returned to or dropped below pre-recession levels. In addition, a record 68 percent, or more than two out of three, of residents with annual household incomes below $25,000 would not be able to afford food within three months of losing their household income, up 24 percent from 2009 (55 percent) and up 11 percent from the height of the recession in 2008 (61 percent).

Findings show that the situation for low-income households with children is even more dire, a particularly troubling trend as economic instability and hunger have severe, long-term consequences for children. Throughout 2010, more than three out of four (76 percent) households with children with annual incomes of less than $25,000 experienced difficulty affording food. This figure represents an increase of 6 percent from 2009 (72 percent), exceeds 2007 pre-recession levels (68 percent) and is only slightly lower than at the height of the recession in 2008 (77 percent). This means a startling number of low-income households with children only temporarily felt relief from the recession and are now experiencing the same level of financial difficulty they had at the height of the recession crisis.
 
To make matters worse, an overwhelming majority (83 percent) of households with children with annual incomes of less than $25,000 would not be able to afford needed food for themselves and their families within three months of losing their household income. This represents a 38 percent increase from 2009 (60 percent) and the highest percentage on record since the start of the poll.

Even though, by economists’ definitions, the recession is over,  New Yorkers are still feeling its effects and must now face a jobless recovery that is expected to last for years.  Almost one-third of city residents are concerned about needing food assistance in the next 12 months, half of whom have never accessed food assistance before.  And among New Yorkers experiencing difficulty affording food, 57 percent predict that their financial situation will be the same or worse one year from now.

Relying on savings and using strategies such as reducing food intake are temporary measures and are not likely to shield residents in the long-term. With many residents already making these sacrifices and even more treading a thin line before they may be forced to do the same, a long recovery could set the stage for the number of New Yorkers experiencing food poverty to swell.

These findings are reminders that even though the recession has ended, hardship for our most vulnerable residents continues to rise and presents an insecure and bleak outlook for 2011. Reversing this trend and creating long-term solutions requires addressing the underlying causes of food poverty including lack of access to affordable and nutritious food, high housing, transportation and healthcare costs, and the lack of a living wage. In the near-term, increasing support for soup kitchens and food pantries to provide emergency food is an essential stop-gap to ensure that individuals and families receive the assistance they need.

About the Food Bank For New York City
Food Bank For New York City recognizes 27 years as the city’s major hunger-relief organization working to end food poverty throughout the five boroughs.  As the city’s hub for integrated food poverty assistance, the Food Bank tackles the hunger issue on three fronts — food distribution, income support and nutrition education — all strategically guided by its research. Through its network of approximately 1,000 community-based member programs citywide, the Food Bank helps provide 400,000 free meals a day for New Yorkers in need. The Food Bank’s hands-on nutrition education program in the public schools reaches thousands of children, teens and adults. Income support services including food stamps, free tax assistance for the working poor and the Earned Income Tax Credit put millions of dollars back in the pockets of low-income New Yorkers, helping them to achieve greater dignity and independence. Learn how you can help at foodbanknyc.org.


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