Brooklyn Daily Eagle: NYC Child Hunger Soars While Brooklyn Feeding Programs Close

Posted on: November 27, 2011

Nearly 90 Percent of Brooklyn Pantries And Kitchens Are Feeding More People

By New York Coalition Against HungerBROOKLYN, NY — A new analysis of recent U.S. Department of Agriculture data, conducted by the New York City Coalition Against Hunger and released Wednesday, found that nearly 500,000 city children, or one in four, live in families that cannot afford an adequate supply of food.

The coalition`s calculations also showed that one in six New York City residents, 1.47 million New Yorkers, live in food insecurity, struggling against hunger.

A separate survey of New York City soup kitchens and food pantries, also included in the coalition`s report, found that demand at city food pantries and soup kitchens grew by 12 percent this year — on top of a 7 percent increase in 2010 and a 21 increase in 2009.

In 2011, nearly 59 of these strapped emergency feeding programs closed their doors due, in part, to government cutbacks and decreases in private donations.

While the survey was not able to break down the above statistics by borough, it did find that in just Brooklyn alone, 89.5 percent of the food pantries and soup kitchens who answered the survey said they were feeding more people in the last 12 months than in the previous year, with 58 percent reporting that the number has increased “greatly.”� The Coalition highlighted its Brooklyn-specific findings in a press conference Wednesday at the Masbia Soup Kitchen in Flatbush.

The majority of the responding Brooklyn agencies said they had suffered government funding cuts, and 75.5 percent said that, overall, their government and private supplies of food and funding had declined. The coalition located at least 11 Brooklyn feeding programs believed to have shut down during the last few years, and found that the surviving agencies were forced to cut back on their services.

While 67.2 percent of Brooklyn survey respondents indicated that the demand for food had outstripped their ability to provide it, 65.5 percent said they were forced to turn away hungry New Yorkers, reduce portion sizes or limit hours of operations.

One of the reasons that this number is so high is that the federal Emergency Food and Shelter Program, which funds hundreds of city pantries and kitchens, was cut by 40 percent as part of the budget deal that President Barack Obama struck with the Congressional leadership to keep the federal government running in 2011.

In New York City, those cuts resulted in a reduction in funding for emergency feeding programs from $5.1 million to $3.5 million. To make matters worse, the coalition`s survey showed that 55 percent of the city`s pantries and kitchens obtained fewer private donations in 2011 than in 2010.

Largely as a result of these cuts, many agencies were forced to close down entirely, and the ones able to stay open often had to cut back on their services. The coalition`s survey found that at least 47 feeding programs citywide have shut down entirely over the past few years.

“As underscored by this troubling new report, there is simply no excuse for anyone not getting enough healthy, nourishing food,”� said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. “In Brooklyn, nine out of 10 soup kitchens report significant increases in the number of people they serve, yet three-quarters say they have lost government funding. Even worse, providers have been forced to turn away those in need, reduce portion sizes and operating hours, or close down altogether.”

“In the past fiscal year Masbia has seen a 300 percent increase in the number of people we serve. We need to raise tens of thousands of dollars each week and rely heavily on individual donations,”� said Masbia Executive Director Alexander Rapaport. “The best way people can help in the short-term fight against hunger is by contributing a few dollars to any neighborhood soup kitchen or food pantry to help people get food, and by volunteering throughout the year. This includes not only peeling potatoes, but doing phone banking and fundraising as well.”

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