2002-11-30 / Community

Increase In Working Poor And Demand For Food

Increase In Working Poor And Demand For Food

According to a survey released by Hunger Action, 71 per cent of New York State’s soup kitchens and food pantries report that the amount of people citing job loss as a reason for using their program has increased. New Yorkers are forced to rely on food programs because they cannot make ends meet. In order to urge policy makers to end hunger, over forty groups participated in Thanksgiving Actions Against Hunger across New York State on November 25. The participating groups wanted to ensure that programs that help the poor are not cut in order to balance the state budget.

The Hunger Action Network of New York State conducted a survey of Emergency Food Programs throughout the state to examine program changes from September of 2001 to September of 2002. Eight per cent of programs responding to this survey reported an increase in demand for food in the last year.

Comparing data from the months of September 2001 and September 2002, there was a 12 per cent increase in demand for food in that month alone. Programs attributed the increase to the poor economy, low wages, job loss and business closures, reduction in the number of hours or days people work, and the ripple effects from the World Trade Center attack. Eighty-five per cent of programs said there was an increase in the amount of working poor who used their program in the last year. Each week, more than 904,884 different hungry New Yorkers turn to food pantries and soup kitchens for emergency assistance.

Many programs have recently experienced budget cuts and are worried that the cuts will continue this year considering the state and local budget deficits. Over half of Emergency Food Programs reported that they experienced a decrease in monetary donations in the last year, in part due to budget cuts. They also experienced a decrease in community donations in the last year, in part due to budget cuts. They also experienced a decrease in community donations, because of the economic slump and because community members who typically donate were experiencing their own economic hardships.

Seventy-three per cent of programs reported that they need more money and 68 per cent report that they need more food to meet the increased number of people using their program. Many programs reported that some people who were affected by the September 11 World Trade Center attack are just coming forward for assistance now. Further, eighty-seven per cent of programs expect an increase in demand for food over the next six months because of the economy and the tough winter season.

Forty-five organizations and over 300 advocates and concerned citizens organized activities such as food drives, letter-writing campaigns, fasts, petitions, community meals and educational forums to call for an end to hunger. Emergency food programs also invited elected officials to volunteer at their food pantry or soup kitchen.

"Mayor Bloomberg has recognized the urgent need to feed the hungry by not cutting the city’s emergency food programs in his budget proposal. However, at the state level we are concerned that Governor Pataki will not be looking to raise revenue, but instead to slash programs despite the increase in need during these difficult economic times," said Bich Ha Pham, Executive Director of the Hunger Action Network of New York State.

"Too many people will have their Thanksgiving meal at a food program because they cannot afford a decent meal. Many people who use food programs have to make the choice between paying utility and rent bills or paying for food because their wages are abysmally low," said Susannah Pasquantonio, Community Food Coordinator for Hunger Action.

Bracha Cabot of the Council of Jewish Organizations on Staten Island told Hunger Action, "Since 9-11, we have lost 60 per cent in funding and 70 per cent in private contributions."

Norma Goel of the UUMC Outreach program in Syracuse told Hunger Action, "Practically no one has a full-time job; all are part-time, seasonal, or temporary." "Cost of food for the pantry has increased so much, it is breaking the church’s budget. Without more help, there will come a time in the near future when the church can’t do it."

Hunger Action received over 200 responses from 1,000 randomly distributed surveys; 48 counties throughout the state were represented among the responses. Regional breakdowns are available.

The NYS Hunger Impact Survey September 2001 – September 2002 yielded some of the following results:

87% of programs responding said that they anticipate an increase in demand for emergency food in the next six months.

80% of the programs experienced an increase in demand for food comparing data from September 2001 and September 2002. There was 12% increase in demand for food for that month alone. Examining programs outside New York City, there was a 28% increase in demand for food for that month alone. Inside New York City, there was a 7% increase. The lower increase inside the city is consistent with previous surveys that show that there was a spike in demand for food immediately after the September 11 WTC attack.

71% of programs report that the amount of people citing recent job loss as a reason for using their program has increased in the last year.

70% of programs experienced an increase in the number of children using their program in the last year.

85% of programs said there was in increase in the amount of working poor people who used their program in the last year.

57% said they experienced a decline in monetary donations.

34% said they experienced a decline in other donations such as clothing or food.

34% said they cannot feed everyone who comes to them for assistance. Many programs which said that they currently can feed everyone say that they are running low on resources.

Programs say they have the following needs:

73% need more money.

68% need more food.

38% need more help linking people with emergency housing.

28% need more help linking people with federal nutrition program benefits.


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