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New York Giants 'Touch-Down' at Food Bank For New York City's Kids Cafe Cielo to 'Talk Turkey' About Health & Fitness & Childhood Hunger During the Holidays


397,000 Children in NYC Rely On Soup Kitchens & Food Pantries For Survival

NEW YORK, NY, November 20, 2007 — Members of the New York Giants ‘huddled' with 50 children (aged 6–12) to ‘talk turkey' about health and fitness and ‘tackle' the issue of childhood hunger this holiday season with team members from the Food Bank For New York City at Kids Cafe Cielo at Citizen Advice Bureau, 1130 Grand Concourse Avenue, The Bronx.

The kids welcomed the Giants with a favorite song, "You Are What Your Eat," and shared the reasons that they are ‘thankful' this holiday season. Then the Giants got everyone up on their feet for an all-out workout including push ups and jumping jacks, plus a game of football toss.

The kids got a lesson from the Giants on how to make healthy food choices at the Food Bank's Open Market for the kid's ‘food to go' backpacks — an award winning programs designed to help alleviate hunger among low-income children throughout New York City.

The Open Market Program, part of American's Second Harvest's national BackPack Program, provides children from low-income families with backpacks that they fill with produce and healthy food items to make balanced, nutritious meals at home. The program is designed to meet children's needs at times when school meals are not available — weekends and school vacations. The Food Bank's unique approach to this program — the only one of its kinds in the U.S. — lets children shop for food for themselves and their families at a set-up that mirrors a real marketplace with each food group clearly labeled — protein, dairy, grain, and so on. It both educates and helps children become self sufficient. The need for such is program is evidenced by the fact that 28 percent of New York City under the age of 18 live below the federal poverty level.

"The Giants, like many organizations, are glad to use the week of Thanksgiving to spend time with others in our community," said Allison Stangeby, Director of Community Relations for the New York Giants. "We are proud partners with the Food Bank For New York City, an organization that demonstrates the spirit of Thanksgiving every day of the year. This event allows us to combine our consistent message of physical fitness with the theme of the holiday, while hopefully giving these kids a day they will always remember."

This Thanksgiving comes at a time when even more families throughout New York City are struggling to put food on the table. While the demand for emergency food has increased, the amount of food that is now available to the Food Bank's emergency food assistance programs, has drastically decreased. These two factors — coming together at the same time — are responsible for the worst food shortage witnessed in recent years. Shelves at the Food Bank's warehouse are empty. Shelves at soup kitchens and food pantries all over the city are empty and many will close their doors for the Thanksgiving holiday. Emergency food programs are now open, on average, only two days per week vs. three days per week, on average, in 2004.

The critical shortage of food in the system is due to cuts and flat-funding of federal government support through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). In the past three years, the Food Bank has lost 12 million pounds of food due to cuts and flat-funding of TEFAP. Today, in response to this critical shortage, the city stepped up to the plate and announced it will spend an extra one million dollars to provide much needed food for the Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP) administered by NYC's Human Resources Administration (HRA).

"The holiday season is always an especially challenging time for the Food Bank and our network of programs. The food shortage that we are experiencing at this time substantially compounds that challenge," said Dr. Lucy Cabrera, Ph.D., President and CEO of the Food Bank For New York City. "We are grateful to the city for recognizing the need and acting upon it. And we are especially grateful to New York Giants for their continued support and for helping focus much needed attention on the pervasive issue of hunger in New York City."

According to NYC Hunger Safety Net 2007: A Food Poverty Focus — a report that was released in October 2007 by the Food Bank that tracks hunger trends throughout the five boroughs — this holiday season there are 1.3 million New Yorkers who rely on the Food Bank's network of food assistance programs for survival, a 24 percent increase from approximately one million in 2004. Of those who are turning to soup kitchens and food pantries, 191,000 reside in the Bronx.

Among EFP households, almost one out of every three (31 percent) members is a child under age 17 (a 20 percent increase since 2004), 57 percent are working-age adults (18–64) and 12 percent are elderly adults age 65 and older.

This situation could potentially get worse if the amount of food coming into the emergency food system does not increase to meet the existing demand and if improvements in the government nutrition program benefits are not made, such as in food stamps. The Food Bank had hoped to see timely passage of the 2007 Farm Bill — before the end of the calendar year — with a strong Nutrition Title, the help reverse the tide. It is the most important piece of federal legislation to impact hunger and food poverty nationwide. Instead, the Senate adjourned last Friday after stalling debate on the Bill. It will be another two weeks before they return to hopefully vote for passage.

But for the 50 kids at Cafe Cielo today, none of this mattered. Their day ended on a high note — as they all lined up to get their mini-footballs signed by each of the players!

Additional findings from the Food Bank's NYC Hunger Safety Net 2007 report:

  • Almost one-half (49 percent) of emergency food programs, ran out of food one out of every six times (17 percent) they were open in the past year.
  • 61 percent of emergency food programs (EFPs) operating in the Bronx ran out of food.
  • 52 percent of EFPs operating in Brooklyn ran out of food.
  • 39 percent of EFPs operating in Manhattan ran out of food.
  • 41 percent of EFPs operating in Queens ran out of food. 70 percent of EFPs operating in Staten Island ran out of food.
  • The average annual operating budget for EFP's is approximately $42,000. EFPs spend almost two thirds (64 percent) of their budget on food (up from 59 per cent in 2004) and 12 percent of their budget on paid staff (a decrease from 15 percent in 2004).
  • In addition, almost one-half (47 percent) of EFP agencies turned participants away — 70 percent cited lack of food as the main reason.
  • More than one out of every five (21 percent) EFP participants is employed and among them, 57 percent work full-time — a 73 percent increase from 2004. Almost one-third (31 percent) of EFP participants disabled, 19 percent are retired and 28 percent are unemployed/not working.
  • Almost one-half (46 percent) of EFP households receive food stamps, up from 31 percent in 2004. On average, EFP households receive $147 in food stamps per month ($37 per week). Almost one-quarter (24 percent) of EFP participant households run out of food stamp benefits in one week or less, 60 percent in two weeks and 84 percent run out in three weeks.
  • Approximately one-quarter (24 percent) of EFP participants have a college education (including some college, associate's, bachelor's and graduate degrees), up from 15 percent in 2004.

There are many ways to help the Food Bank this holiday season. You can make a financial contribution, coordinate a food drive or Virtual Food Drive or volunteer. A $1 donation to the Food Bank provides 5 meals.

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