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HUNGER REPORT: Seniors, Immigrants, Families with Children Turning to Emergency Food Network Amid Federal Threats

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November 25, 2019

Contact: Jennifer Barden | (646) 676-4486

Data from Food Bank For New York City Shows Food Pantries and Soup Kitchens Face Growing – Yet Often Hidden – Need

New York, NY — Food Bank For New York City today released a new report on the state of hunger in NYC that shows seniors, immigrants and families with children are turning to the emergency food network amid threats to Federal poverty programs. A large majority of food pantries and soup kitchens also reported an increase in first-time visitors. The report, titled Hunger Cannot Afford to Be Hidden, is based on information gathered from those serving on the frontlines of Food Bank’s network of soup kitchens and food pantries throughout the five boroughs.

Many charity leaders are concerned that in the past year, the Trump Administration has attempted to strip needed food assistance away from low-income New Yorkers. This includes targeted attacks on benefits for unemployed people, a change to the federal definition of poverty making low-income households ineligible, and setting up hurdles that would eliminate SNAP eligibility for 200,000 New Yorkers and compromise New York City’s ability to continue offering universal free school meals. The latest attack would recalculate how utility costs are budgeted by SNAP, causing 450,000 households across New York State would lose an average of $63 per month in benefits – a loss of 9 million meals every month.

Charities are also concerned with the Administration’s efforts to add the use of SNAP, Medicaid and other public benefits to the list of programs that would jeopardize an immigrant’s application for legal permanent residence by deeming them a public charge. Despite being temporarily blocked by the courts, the chilling impact of this rule is already being felt as it has made families and individuals afraid to access the poverty programs for which they are eligible. As a result, food pantries and soup kitchens across the city are seeing increased needs and are struggling to attempt to meet them.

“The new barrier to accessing SNAP is fear. That fear is making people walk away from services and other benefits for which they are eligible. Just because soup kitchens and food pantries have the heart to serve, it doesn’t mean they have the responsibility to try to replace government,” said Margarette Purvis, President and CEO of Food Bank For New York City. “Our member charities report that some visitors are afraid to access services due to fear of deportation, and have even had families ask for help planning care for their children in the event that it happens. Our network is stretching their missions and reach to meet emerging needs. They need the support of all New Yorkers in raising their voices and sharing their resources to protect and serve our city’s most vulnerable.”

Among the report’s key findings:

  • 85% of food pantries and soup kitchens reported an increase in first-time visitors over the past year;
  • 76% reported an increase in families with children over the past year;
  • 60% reported an increase in seniors over the past year;
  • 58% reported an increase in immigrant families over the past year;
  • More than half of emergency food programs reported running out of food, or particular types of food, required to make adequate pantry bags or meals during the past year;
  • 21% of emergency food programs reported increasing their hours of operation during the past year, and food pantries provided anecdotal reports of providing home delivery to families afraid to come outside and holding private and unlisted distribution hours for immigrant families seeking meals.

See the full report here.

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About Food Bank For New York City

For 36 years, Food Bank For New York City has been the city’s major hunger-relief organization working to end hunger throughout the five boroughs. Nearly one in five New Yorkers relies on Food Bank for food and other resources. Food Bank takes a strategic, multifaceted approach that provides meals and builds capacity in the neediest communities, while raising awareness and engagement among all New Yorkers. Through its network of more than 1,000 charities and schools citywide, Food Bank provides food for more than 61 million free meals per year for New Yorkers in need. Food Bank For New York City’s income support services, including food stamps (also known as SNAP) and free tax assistance for the working poor, put more than $110 million each year into the pockets of New Yorkers, helping them to afford food and achieve greater dignity and independence. Food Bank’s nutrition education programs and services empower more than 50,000 children, teens and adults to sustain a healthy diet and active lifestyle on a limited budget. Working toward long-term solutions to food poverty, Food Bank develops policy and conducts research to inform community and government efforts. To learn more about how you can help, please visit Follow us on Facebook (FoodBank4NYC), Twitter (@FoodBank4NYC) and Instagram (@FoodBank4NYC).


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