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Food Pantry and Soup Kitchen Use Spikes, New City Data Shows
The number of meals served by City-supported soup kitchens and food pantries was nine percent higher in Spring 2008 than a year before, despite the City’s boast that continued reductions in the welfare rolls have resulted in the fewest people receiving public assistance in 42 years. In April of 2008, according to the City, feeding charities provided more than one million meals.
“Last Fall, as the recession started to hit and more feeding programs began to run out of food, the situation for hungry New Yorkers went from bad to worse,” said Joel Berg, Executive Director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. “But now that food prices are soaring, and ever-more people are flooding into pantries and kitchens, the situation has gone from worse to worser. When New Yorkers need to obtain more than a million charity meals in just one month, something is very wrong.”
According to data just released by the City’s Human Resources Administration (HRA), the nearly half of all the feeding agencies in the City who receive HRA funding served a total of 1.946 million meals in March and April of 2008. This was 167,611 more meals than the 1.788 million meals served in March and April of 2007, which represents a nine percent increase.
(Raw 2008 data available at: http://www.nyc.gov/html/hra/downloads/pdf/hrafacts_2008_05.pdf
Raw 2007 data available at: http://www.nyc.gov/html/hra/downloads/pdf/hrafacts_2007_05.pdf )
In addition to increasing hunger in the City, the increased welfare reductions have also coincided with an increase in homelessness: On July 11, 2008, fully 32,332 New Yorkers slept in City homeless shelters, compared to an average of 27,799 per night in fiscal year 2001, when Mayor Bloomberg took office.
Yet, in June of 2008, fully 19,409 people fewer received public assistance than a year ago, and 799,230 (70%) fewer received it than 14 years ago.
Continued Berg, “I am a strong supporter of welfare reform as Bill Clinton originally envisioned it: a comprehensive effort to enable people to obtain the training and work supports they need to move into living wage jobs and escape poverty. Yet, too often, the City government has acted as if the only goal of welfare reform is to reduce the rolls. That’s like judging the success of a hospital solely by how many people left it – no matter whether they left it cured, equally ill, or dead. There are many causes of hunger, poverty, and homelessness in New York City, but these figures suggest that the way welfare reform is being implemented has increased poverty in the City. While we applaud the Mayor for fine-tuning ways to measure poverty in America, we call on him to take a harder look at the data he already has at his fingertips, which proves that the City’s current policies to combat the problem are woefully insufficient.”