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NYC Hunger Experience 2008 Summary


The NYC Hunger Experience report series tracks annual trends in difficulty affording food among New York City residents. 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.[1]


DIFFICULTY AFFORDING FOOD 

A 55 percent increase to 3.1 million New Yorkers having difficulty affording food...
The number of New York City residents who experienced difficulty affording needed food for themselves and their families throughout the year steadily increased from 2 million in 2003 (25 percent of the New York City population) to 3.1 million in 2007 (38 percent of the New York City population) — a 55 percent increase.

This rising trend in difficulty affording food was consistent with a rise in the number of residents accessing New York City's network of emergency food programs (soup kitchens and food pantries). From 2004 to 2007, the number of New York City residents turning to soup kitchens and food pantries increased by 24 percent (from 1 million to 1.3 million).[2]

Among residents with difficulty affording food in 2007, 38 percent did not purchase needed food for themselves or their families at some time during the year, an increase of more than one-quarter (27 percent) since 2005 (the earliest year data is available). The rising percentage of New Yorkers with difficulty affording food is not surprising given rising costs of food and other basic necessities. The cost of food at home for the New York City metro region increased 15 percent from 2003 to 2007 and 4 percent from 2006 to 2007.[3]

Despite general misconceptions, middle-income New Yorkers were among the hardest hit by the rising cost of living...
A growing percentage of middle-income residents having difficulty affording food: In 2006, the data revealed that more New Yorkers at higher income categories were having difficulty affording needed food — findings from 2007 demonstrated that this trend was getting worse. The income category with the highest percentage of New Yorkers experiencing difficulty throughout 2007 continued to be households with incomes below $25,000 per year (57 percent); however, an increasing percentage of households with higher incomes were also struggling. From 2003 to 2007, the percentage of New York City residents with annual household incomes between $25,000 and $49,999 and having difficulty affording food doubled from 21 percent to 42 percent. The percentage of residents with household incomes between $50,000 and $74,999 having difficulty affording food also almost doubled, from 14 percent in 2003 to more than one-quarter (27 percent) in 2007. The largest percent increase was among New York City residents with household incomes of more than $75,000 per year, as more than one-fifth (21 percent) experienced difficulty affording needed food in 2007 — five times as many as in 2003 (4 percent) and more than three times as many as in 2006 (6 percent).

A growing percentage of employed and college-educated residents having difficulty affording food: Given that more New Yorkers with higher incomes were having difficulty affording needed food in 2007, it is not surprising that more than one-third (35 percent) of New York City households with an employed member were also experiencing difficulty.[4] Similarly, more than one-third (35 percent) of New Yorkers with a college degree[5] were having difficulty affording food for themselves and their families, more than three times as many as in 2003 (11 percent) and almost double the percentage in 2006 (18 percent).

Difficulty affording food takes a toll on young, middle-age and elderly New Yorkers...
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;[6] this trend could trigger a crisis as a larger population of elderly residents has difficulty affording food.

In keeping with income, employment and education findings, close to one-half of New York City residents age 36 to 64 (generally thought of as prosperous years) experienced difficulty affording needed food in 2007, a huge increase since 2003. In 2007, 45 percent of New York City residents age 36 to 49 experienced difficulty affording needed food, up 25 percent from 2006 (36 percent) and up more than 67 percent from 2003 (27 percent). Among residents ages 50 through 64, 44 percent had difficulty affording food in 2007, up 76 percent from 2003 (25 percent).

Households with children were still among the most vulnerable...
Almost one-half of households with children in New York City had difficulty affording food in 2007, up from approximately one-third in 2003. Among New York City households with children, 45 percent had difficulty affording needed food in 2007 — a 41 percent increase since 2003 (32 percent). Similar trends were seen at emergency food programs (EFPs). Further demonstrating the severity of the problem, the number of New York City children served by soup kitchens and food pantries increased by 48 percent from approximately 269,000 in 2004 to approximately 397,000 in 2007.[7]


IMPACT OF LOST INCOME

One out of five New Yorkers was without savings due to the rising cost of living...
In New York City, approximately 1.6 million residents (20 percent of the New York City population) would immediately not be able to afford needed food for themselves and their families after the loss of their household incomes in 2007, up from 1.3 million (17 percent) in 2003 — a 24 percent increase. A total of 3.7 million residents (45 percent of the New York City population) would be unable to afford food within three months of losing their household income in 2007. These findings demonstrate that a staggering number of New Yorkers lived paycheck to paycheck and had little or no savings to fall back on in the event of hardships such as illness, layoffs or rising prices.

Middle-income and employed households were unable to save...
The income category with the highest percentage (29 percent) of residents unable to afford needed food immediately after the loss of their household income continued to be households with the lowest incomes (less than $25,000 annually). However, middle- and higher-income households were not immune to the trend toward a lack of savings. In 2007, 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. Among households with incomes from $50,000 to $74,999, almost one out of five (18 percent) would be immediately unable to afford food after losing their household income in 2007 — an 80 percent increase from 10 percent in 2003. Even among households with incomes of $75,000 and more, almost one out of ten (9 percent) would not be able to afford food immediately after losing their household income.

This trend among middle-income households in New York City also affected employed households. Approximately one out of every five (19 percent) New York City households with at least one employed member would immediately be unable to afford needed food after losing their household income in 2007.[8]

More elderly New Yorkers were depleting their savings to put food on the table...
For the previous two years, findings on ability to afford food after the loss of a household income demonstrated that elderly New York City residents tended to have more savings to fall back on than other age categories. The 2007 results suggest that this trend may have been changing and that elderly residents were depleting their savings as the cost of food and other basic necessities rose. In 2007, 17 percent of New York City residents age 65 and older would not be able to afford food immediately after the loss of their household income, an increase of approximately one-half (55 percent) in the previous two years (up from 11 percent in 2005).

The data show that this trend is likely to get worse over time. A larger percentage of New York City residents are approaching retirement age without savings; as they begin to rely on fixed incomes, such as Social Security, their household income is likely to drop, and we should expect to see more elderly residents with no savings to fall back on. Among New York City residents age 50 to 64, more than one of out five (21 percent) would be unable to afford food immediately after the loss of their household income, an increase of 50 percent since 2003 (14 percent). As costs and the number of elderly residents living on fixed incomes with little savings continue to rise, this situation will become increasingly urgent.


Full Report Food Bank crown_small black Fact Sheet

 


[1] The 2007 data were collected in February 2008 and, therefore, reflect New York City residents' experiences from February 2007 through February 2008.
[2] NYC Hunger Safety Net 2007: A Food Poverty Focus. (2007). Food Bank For New York City.
[3] Consumer Price Index. United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.
[4] The question on household employment was new in 2007 and no trend data is available.
[5] Within the poll question on education level, the term "college degree" is likely interpreted by respondents as a four-year degree.
[6] New York City Population Projections by Age/Sex & Borough, 2000–2030 Report. (2006). New York City Department of City Planning.
[7] NYC Hunger Safety Net 2007: A Food Poverty Focus. (2007). Food Bank For New York City.
[8] The question on household employment was new in 2007 and no trend data is available.

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