NEW YORK—The children of New York City are among the hardest hit by the 2008 financial crisis. While poverty among New York City children has been escalating for years, the 2008 financial crisis will deepen and spread child food poverty even further, unless measures are implemented to address the problem.
‘The Unhealthy Return on Missed Investments’, a report released at a press conference on Tuesday by the Food Bank for New York states that more than one out of every four NYC children (almost 400,000) lives below the poverty level, and more than one in five relies on a soup kitchen or food pantry for food.
Insufficient incomes, rising prices, and lack of access to nutritious food all contribute to food poverty. As a result, NYC children suffer the consequences including poor health, increasing rates of diet-related diseases such as obesity and diabetes, as well as low academic achievement.
“Allowing more children to slip into poverty is not an option,” said Dr. Lucy Carera, President and CEO of the Food bank for NYC. “The wisest investment we can make today is a commitment to “bail-out” our city’s children by stamping out child hunger and poverty. To address existing child food poverty and to prevent further hardships, we recommend a range of measures, from improving existing government nutrition assistance programs to meet immediate needs, to confronting the factors that create and sustain food poverty in the long term.”
“Hungry children do not learn as well, do not grow as well and live shorter and less healthy lives,” said Councilman Eric Gioia. “If we do not fix the problems of hunger, poor nutrition and obesity immediately, they will remain a persistent and severe problem that will have long term consequences for New York. Eradication of hunger is a moral issue that should be a priority for every public official in New York City.”
According to report findings, while 19 percent of the NYC population lives below the poverty level, more than one-quarter of children live in poverty.
Insufficient income is a major causal factor of children going hungry or being nutritionally deficient. The annual gross earnings for a minimum wage full-time worker in NYC (currently $7.15 an hour and scheduled to increase in July 2009) is only $14,872, well below the federal poverty level for a family of three (approximately $17,000 annually). Even before the 2008 financial crisis hit, the escalating cost of living was particularly hard on households with children in NYC. From 2003 to 2007 basic living costs in the metro area, including food, fuel and utilities, housing and medical care, and transportation increased between 14 to almost 40 percent.
“Hunger for our children is a very now problem. We talk about food pantries and soup kitchens, and food packages especially, and I don’t really look at them as emergency assistance, I look at it as assistance,” said Bishop Mitchell Taylor, president of the East River Development Alliance and also representing the Center of Hope International bread of Life Food Pantry.
“25 years ago I had the opportunity to be in a third world country … behind me there was a rustling sound, and I looked around thinking it might be rats. What I saw was children reaching into a garbage bin looking for food, trying to feed themselves,” said Melony Samuals, Executive Director at BedStuy Campaign Against Hunger. “And as I’ve watched our country decline in their responsibility to feed children, it makes me wonder, will I turn around any time soon and hear rustling in a garbage and look to see American children reaching in for food.”