New Report Details Increase In Hunger
By MEGAN MONTALVO
|Due to a lack of financial support, the once well-stocked bodega at Sunnyside Community Services now sits bare. Photo by Megan Montalvo
Amidst the loss of dozens of homes, cars and lives, the wrath of Superstorm Sandy put one basic human need at the forefront of volunteer efforts: feeding the hungry.
While many donations have contributed to the recovery process since the storm hit four weeks ago, a new survey issued by the New York City Coalition Against Hunger shows that in terms of total restoration, the City still has a long way to go.
On Nov. 21, NYCCAH Executive Director Joel Berg unveiled data at the Sunnyside Community Services Center from a report titled “The Perpetual Storm,” which detailed the struggles a number of agencies have faced pre-and-post-Sandy.
“Here in Queens, our survey found that even before Hurricane Sandy, 321,000 residents live in households that cannot afford enough food,” Berg said at the center. “Since the storm, that number has considerably risen.”
According to the survey, within the first week after the Sandy, 54 percent of the 100 responding City food providers reported that they had been impacted by the physical elements of the superstorm.
Additionally, more than 60 percent reported an increase in the number of people requesting food.
“A lot of our clients lost food due to loss of power, but most of them lost work as much as two weeks - and if they don’t work, they don’t get paid,” said Pedro Rodriguez, a respondent from La Jornada, based in Oakland Gardens.
Along with the increased demand at food providing agencies post-Sandy, the report also highlighted an overall decrease in government funding to anti-hunger programs this year, combined with a Citywide increase in child and senior citizen hunger.
Out of all five boroughs, findings show that out of the 1.7 million New Yorkers who live below the federal poverty line at $18,123 for a family of three, the Bronx had the highest number of food insecure residents at 533,825.
In Brooklyn, a total of 328,294 food insecure individuals nearly tied with Queens at 321,655. Both surpassed Manhattan’s total 229,811.
“For many New Yorkers, having enough food is a daily concern,” Executive Director of Sunnyside Community Services Judith Zandwill said. “Each weekday, we serve approximately 200 hot meals to combat that concern. But, due to a lack of funding, we also face challenges. It’s been difficult.”
As part of their challenges, administrators at the center said they had to close a small bodega that sold items, such as cereal, sundries and various perishables, at a more affordable price than grocery stores.
Shelves that were once in a well-stocked store room four months ago now sit bare, holding only a sparse number of plastic bags.
“Having the store used to be wonderful. It would allow us to save a lot of money,” said Ann Harato, a local Sunnyside resident who frequents the center. “A lot of us have to make choices between food and medicine among other sacrifices to tighten our belts. We’ve made them. We’ve done them. We’d like some food.”
Though employees at SCSC have been working to cope with the loss of their bodega with the hopes of one day reopening it, Berg asserts that the government should be consistently working to contribute more than what is currently given to providers.
“One in six children in Queens currently live in households that can’t afford enough food,” Berg said. “During a natural disaster, like Sandy, our government officials emphasize that no one should go a few hours without food. Shouldn’t we agree that is how it should always be?”
To keep in line with the report’s release, NYCCAH launched a campaign to reject plans to further cut federal anti-hunger programs earlier this month.
To join NYCCAH’s campaign to end child hunger, visit www.nyccah.org or call (212) 825-0028.
Reach Reporter Megan Montalvo at (718) 357-7400 Ext. 128 or firstname.lastname@example.org.