Startling news came in from the USDA today about hunger and poverty rates in New York City. The survey measured results from 2008 and 2010, and found that 2.5 million New Yorkers couldn’t afford enough food, a 50 percent increase from a similar survey taken from 2005 and 2007. The data goes deeper to note that 702,000 state residents are classified as officially going hungry, while one in seven cannot afford food at some point in a given year. These results are higher than any ever recorded before, and mark a severe problem in New York.
According to the USDA, numbers leveled off in 2010 after a three year drop, but have taken a turn for the worse. High levels of funding for state-sponsored programs may have accounted for less hunger in recent years, but recent budget cuts may have reversed this. In 2010 President Obama and Congress cut federal funding for food banks, soup kitchens and food pantries by 40% nationwide (and in New York City).
Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger said “This is the highest level of state hunger since the government started counting it. This new data proves that, over the last few years, millions of New Yorkers were at the edge of an economic cliff, with many falling off into hunger but some barely hanging on with the aid of government nutrition programs”.
New Yorker’s inside and outside of the food industry can help to rectify this situation. Nonprofits organizations are always looking for volunteers, like the Hot Bread Kitchen, which offers training to low income women to develop their own businesses. Other organizations like City Harvest work to collect excess food from restaurants and deliver them to those in need. With hunger rates rising and government programs declining, more weight than ever falls upon our efforts and those of nonprofits to keep our city full.
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