Food Bank’s research and policy analysis allows us to engage in public policy discussions at the city, state and federal levels in order to help make impactful, long-term improvements for New Yorkers in need. As an independent, nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, Food Bank meets the Better Business Bureau’s charity standards and we are a member of Feeding America. Visit our Financials page to view our Form 990 and other financial reports.
The Next Hunger Cliff: Food Assistance in NYC Faces Safety Net Crisis
When the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 brought about an immediate (and necessary) economic shutdown, millions of New Yorkers lost their jobs or became furloughed. Unemployment in New York City soared to an all-time high of 32 percent and many New Yorkers – some for the first time in their lives – had no choice but to turn to hunger-relief organizations for food.
Food pantries and soup kitchens across the five boroughs reported widespread increases in visitor traffic in just two months after the COVID-19 outbreak in New York City. Food Bank For New York City reported on the dramatic spike in food need from January 2020 to May 2020.
Three years later, unemployment in New York City is still higher than the pre-pandemic level.
Though 2022 marked a return to “normal” for many across the nation (with the current unemployment rate of 3.7 percent nearly back to its pre-pandemic level of 3.5 percent), New York City’s jobs have still not fully recovered. The current rate of unemployment in New York City is 5.8 percent, nearly 2 percentage points higher than its pre-pandemic rate of 3.7 percent. This is the equivalent of 34,000 New Yorkers who used to work but remain unemployed.
New York City Self-Sufficiency Report: Overlooked & Undercounted 2021
The updated New York City Self-Sufficiency Report (“Overlooked and Undercounted 2021: Struggling to Make Ends Meet in New York City”) specifies the challenges families face in meeting their basic needs, and the budgets they require to reach financial self-sufficiency. The report’s analyses are based on the Self-Sufficiency Standard, a realistic, geographically-specific, and family-composition specific measure of income adequacy that indicates how race, gender, education, and age affect a person’s opportunity to achieve self-sufficiency.
The report is especially critical now, as many working families in New York City are struggling to recover from the ongoing economic crisis triggered by COVID-19. Need within many households is hidden and unaddressed because the outdated Official Poverty Measure (OPM) is used to determine poverty rates and eligibility for safety net benefits. The Self-Sufficiency Standard should replace the OPM given its accuracy in measuring income inadequacy, which is income that is too low to meet basic needs.
The report is based on the most recent data available from the 2019 American Community Survey, and it compares household incomes to the Self-Sufficiency Standard (as well as the Official Poverty Measure) across a wide range of household characteristics. The Standard provides policymakers, investors, philanthropists, nonprofits, government officials, corporate partners, and advocates with a more comprehensive lens to advance reforms that support New Yorkers on the road to self-sufficiency.
Food Bank For New York City
- Food Bank For New York City’s food distribution program provides more than 121 million free meals per year for New Yorkers in need.
- Since 1983, Food Bank For New York City has provided more than 1.3 billion meals to 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, put more than $53.4 million into the pockets of low-income New Yorkers last year.
- Food Bank For New York City’s nutrition education programs and services empower nearly 9,000 children and families to sustain a healthy diet on a limited budget.
- Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 18.1 percent, or nearly 318 thousand (317,920) children lived in households that were already food insecure before the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A donation of $1 to Food Bank For New York City helps provide 5 meals.
Source: Food Bank for New York City, Fiscal Year 2022
Food security means access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.
- More than 35.2 million United States residents, or 10.9 percent, are food insecure.
- Nearly 2.1 million New York State residents, or 10.7 percent, are food insecure.
- Nearly 1.1 million New York City residents, or 12.5 percent, are food insecure.
- New York City residents make up half (50 percent) of all food insecure people living in New York State.
- The number of food insecure individuals in New York City is projected to increase by more than 44 percent due to COVID-19. As such, nearly 1.6 million or 18.6 percent New York City residents are now projected to be experiencing food insecurity.
Source: NYS & NYC: Map the Meals Gap (2019); Feeding America (2021). Note that this data is released one year after it is collected
The Meal Gap
The Meal Gap represents the meals missing from the homes of those struggling to put food on the table.
- The meal gap for the United States was 6.8 billion before the COVID-19 pandemic; that is, US residents who experience food insecurity fall short of an adequate diet by 6.8 billion meals in a single year.
- The meal gap for New York State was approximately 367 million before the COVID-19 pandemic; that is, New York State residents who experience food insecurity fall short of an adequate diet by 367 million meals in a single year.
- The meal gap for New York City was nearly 185 million before the COVID-19 pandemic; that is, New York City residents who experience food insecurity fall short of an adequate diet by 185 million meals in a single year. New York City’s meal gap makes up over half (51.7 percent) of New York State’s meal gap.
Source: Map the Meals Gap (2018); Feeding America (2020). Note that this data is released two years after it is collected.
FIGHTING MORE THAN COVID-19: UNMASKING THE STATE OF HUNGER IN NYC DURING A PANDEMIC
June 2020 – As New York City continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic shutdown, another crisis has unfolded: New Yorkers struggling to put food on the table for themselves and their families. More than 500,000 New Yorkers are facing unemployment, and are forced to make impossible choices between rent, utilities, medications, and food – while others face medical risks that require them to stay home and prevent them from acquiring groceries. Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of food pantries and soup kitchens have reported an increase in the overall number of visitors compared to the previous year. In this context of existing hunger in NYC, compounded by the economic pressures created by the pandemic, a number of food pantries and soup kitchens have been forced to close. This report offers special insight on how food insecurity has changed citywide as a result of COVID-19, especially in communities hit hardest by closures of local emergency food providers.
February 2020 – As one of the most expensive and diverse cities in the world, it is not unusual for the data and experiences reported from New York City’s front lines against hunger and poverty to diverge from what is reported on the national level.While unemployment and poverty rates are reported to be at their lowest in U.S. history, new data from Food Bank For New York City show a different reality as New York City’s food pantries and soup kitchens continue to report high demand for emergency food among the vulnerable New Yorkers. Food Bank’s most recent survey of emergency food providers (EFPs) sheds light on multiple socio-economic factors contributing to the divergence between national headlines and the real-life experiences reported from NYC’s frontlines. These factors underscore that the families and individuals who show up at emergency food programs across the five boroughs experiencing hunger are not just living single-issue lives.
November 2019 – In the past 12 months, New Yorkers have witnessed uncertainty in our nation such as few have experienced in their lifetimes. This uncertainty is far-reaching, but too often, the experience of low-income people is overshadowed by political headlines that miss the impact policies can have in exacerbating or alleviating hunger in our country. As 2019 draws to a close, uncertainty for the next 12 months has grown, as low-income people face not only renewed threats of government shutdowns, but a coordinated attack on SNAP, the core of our national food security net. The charitable network has continued to serve in the face of these attacks, but this most recent survey of our network of emergency food providers sheds light on how the current economic and political climate is impacting New
Yorkers in need
February 2019 – 2019 began in the midst of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. 18,000 federal workers impacted in New York City found themselves exposed to new vulnerabilities and many were introduced to the city’s Emergency Food Network for the first time. Other threats also materialized during the shutdown, when 1.6 million low-income New Yorkers received their February SNAP benefits early, creating a “SNAP Gap” for recipients who have to stretch this early disbursement over a much longer period. In the face of this crisis, the Emergency Food Network served as our city’s backstop against hunger for even more of our neighbors in need. This report, presented at a moment of uncertainty, sheds light on the reality of the poorest charities in the poorest communities serving the poorest New Yorkers.
REFLECTIONS OF HUNGER FROM THE FRONT LINES
November 2018 – Earlier this year, Food Bank For New York City asked its network of soup kitchens and pantries to share insights that may only be provided from hunger’s front lines. This analysis is New York City’s only set of reflections from the men and women most intimately involved in ending hunger one New Yorker at a time.These reflections provide a new perspective on the response to the daily emergency of serving people who are struggling to make ends meet in New York.
UNBOXING THE REALITY OF HUNGER: HIDDEN NEED, THREATS & RESOURCES OF NYC’S EMERGENCY FOOD NETWORK
February 2018 – Nearly eight years after the end of the Great Recession, local unemployment and poverty rates are at or near pre-Recession levels. The conventional wisdom holds that such conditions signal a lessening of need for emergency food, yet New York City’s food pantries and soup kitchens continue to report high demand and chronic food shortages. This report, presented at a moment of contrasts – relative economic stability juxtaposed with political volatility – examines food insecurity in New York City and the operating resources available to our city’s food pantries and soup kitchens.
TRADE-OFFS AT THE DINNER TABLE: THE IMPACTS OF UNWANTED COMPROMISES
November 2017 – This report shares new data about the local outcomes of legislative compromises struck by Washington decision-makers on hunger issues. One such outcome: the “Hunger Cliff” – across-the-board reductions in SNAP benefits in November 2013, enacted to pay for increases in school meal costs. In addition, this report provides an analysis of need for and supply of emergency food at New York City’s network of food pantries and soup kitchens since those cuts; and it offers community-level data on SNAP participation in New York City.
MEETING NYC’S NEED: BOLSTERING THE EMERGENCY FOOD NETWORK IN 2017
February 2017 – At a moment of uncertainty for the resources upon which low-income Americans rely to put food on the table, this needs assessment of food pantries and soup kitchens finds that the network providing services to the most vulnerable New Yorkers is itself quite vulnerable: operating with meager cash resources, few, if any, paid staff, and without access to the basic technology that most workplaces take for granted. Nevertheless, there is widespread agreement among emergency food providers that the most needed resource is more food, and in particular the food that is nutritious but expensive, perishable and difficult to procure through donations: meat, fresh produce and dairy.
STILL SCALING THE HUNGER CLIFF: NEED AT NYC FOOD PANTRIES & SOUP KITCHENS
November 2016 – After nearly three years since the November 2013 cuts to SNAP, survey findings reveal that visitor traffic at food pantries and soup kitchens remains at elevated levels, with the November 2013 SNAP cuts continuing to represent the biggest systemic factor reducing the food purchasing power of low-income people. In addition, food shortages at food pantries and soup kitchens remain far too common, with nearly half reporting running out of food in the course of a single month. Yet this report offers evidence that food pantries and soup kitchens are able to serve vulnerable New Yorkers in meaningfully better ways – with fewer food shortages and fuller pantry bags – when needed resources are in place.
NEW YORK CITY’S MEAL GAP: 2016 TRENDS REPORT
September 2016 – New York City had a Meal Gap of approximately 242 million in 2014 (the most recent year for which data is available), with 16.4 percent of residents categorized as food insecure. The food insecurity rate among New York City’s children was even higher, with nearly one in four (22.3 percent, or approximately 399,000 children) experiencing food insecurity.Notably, while New York City’s Meal Gap has not changed appreciably in the past year, it has grown by nearly eight percent in the six-year period observed – a time characterized by economic recovery from the Great Recession. A key driver of this phenomenon appears to be the considerable increase in food costs – a more than 16 percent rise over six years.
February 2016 – When an unprecedented, across-the-board reduction in benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) went into effect on November 1, 2013 – a date now known as the “Hunger Cliff” – food pantries and soup kitchens across the city reported an immediate and widespread increase in visitor traffic. Nearly two years later, in September 2015, 90 percent of food pantries and soup kitchens were still experiencing increased visitor traffic, and approximately half (49 percent) reported having run out of food that month.
Tens of thousands of New Yorkers stand at the precipice of a second Hunger Cliff: on April 1, 2016, non-disabled, childless adults who rely on SNAP will lose those benefits if they have been jobless since the start of the year – regardless of their ability to afford food.
November 2015 – Nearly two years after the “Hunger Cliff,” an unprecedented across-the-board benefit reduction for Supplemental Nutrition Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps), this report offers a snapshot of the longer-term changes in demand at food pantries and soup kitchens in New York City.
THE MEAL GAP UNDER THE MICROSCOPE: NYC FAMILIES AT THE INTERSECTION OF FOOD & FINANCIAL INSECURITY
February 2015 – Research shows that financial capability and food security are linked; even at low incomes, families that are better able to manage household finances are less likely to experience food insecurity.
THE HUNGER CLIFF ONE YEAR LATER: 56 MILLION MEALS LOST AND NEED FOR EMERGENCY FOOD REMAINS HIGH
November 2014 – Nearly 1.8 million New York City residents (approximately one in five) rely on the nation’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps). When across-the-board cuts to SNAP benefits went into effect on November 1, 2013, more than a million households in New York City lost, on average, nearly $18 per month in benefits. The food pantries and soup kitchens in Food Bank For New York City’s citywide network reported immediate and widespread increases in visitor traffic that month. Nearly one year later, has this increased need been sustained, or was it a one-time phenomenon?
January 2014 – What changes in visitor traffic did the food pantries and soup kitchens in Food Bank For New York City’s citywide network see after the SNAP cuts went into effect November 1? To answer this question, Food Bank surveyed food pantries and soup kitchens across the five boroughs about demand at their sites in November 2013, compared to immediately preceding months and to November 2012. The findings presented in this research brief provide a snapshot into the new levels of need that have confronted New York City’s emergency food network within the first month of these sweeping cuts to SNAP.
October 2013 – Released on the eve of unprecedented cuts to SNAP (food stamp) benefits, Hunger’s New Normal: Redefining Emergency in Post-Recession New York City is the second report based on the Hunger Safety Net 2011-12 data. Interviews with more than 1,200 participants at food pantries and soup kitchens throughout the five boroughs provide the source material for this detailed look into who relies on emergency food in New York City, and offer evidence that changes in the economy since the Great Recession have increased need even among groups not conventionally considered disadvantaged.
SERVING UNDER STRESS, POST-RECESSION: THE STATE OF FOOD PANTRIES & SOUP KITCHENS TODAY
November 2012 – Serving under Stress Post-Recession: The State of Food Pantries and Soup Kitchens Today is the first report based on NYC Hunger Safety Net 2011-2012 data. It documents in detail the services emergency food programs provide, the resources they utilize, and the operational challenges they face, in light of a continued weak economic recovery from the Great Recession. Differences between food pantries and soup kitchens are highlighted, and borough-by-borough comparisons are made.