NEW YORK—The number of people in New York going hungry on a daily basis has been on the rise for years, now Hurricane Sandy has caused the steady increase to spike.
A local advocacy group revealed Tuesday that 1.4 million New Yorkers live in households without enough food. Over 60 percent of food agencies across the city faced increased demands for food after the storm, according to a report.
New York City Coalition Against Hunger Executive Director Joel Berg said he hopes that the attention won’t go away after attention on the disaster goes away. “Things have gone from bad to worse over the past couple of years.”
“I am very happy today,” said Pena Altagracia with a smile, as she looked toward her shopping cart. Altagracia is a great grandmother, with five children, 19 grandchildren, and two great grandchildren. She had cabbages and other groceries, supplied by the Yorkville Common Pantry, to take back to the Bronx where she currently lives with two of her sons and five grandchildren.
Not all centers have been able to keep up with needs. According to the report, in 2012, 56 percent of soup kitchens reported having to turn people away, reduce portion sizes, or reduce hours of operation.
“People need our services,” said Stephen Grimaldi, executive director of Yorkville Common Pantry. “There has been a dramatic increase in the number of people coming to our pantry,” said Grimaldi.
There has been a 23 percent increase in the number of children, a 10 percent increase in the number of seniors, and a 13 percent increase in adults going to the pantry for food in the 2012–2013 fiscal year, he said.
People who turn up at soup kitchens are not always the ones you might expect. Grimaldi tells the story of a nurse on a $42,000 salary who regularly comes to the center. “The cost of living is simply too high,” said Grimaldi.
There is a need to create living wage jobs for people, said Berg. People are not being paid enough to afford the basic cost of living in Manhattan. “People are deciding between health care and food,” said Berg.
Berg said he hopes that Obama will fulfill his 2008 election campaign promise to help end child hunger in America.
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