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Hope for Policy Changes in the Midst of Food Crisis

December 4, 2008

“Last year we were doing okay,” said Larnise Smith, a Brooklyn resident who travels from food pantry to food pantry in order to find enough food for her large family. “It changed gradually.”

For many low-income New Yorkers, the gradual change has now reached a crisis level. Many families have now found that they are unable to afford enough food merely by cutting their costs and have been forced to rely on food pantries and soup kitchens to get by.

Higher demand means bare shelves for agencies like the Salt and Sea Mission in Coney Island. Like many agencies across the city, the Mission was forced to turn away many families in November, offering families scarves and hats so that they would not leave empty-handed. Salt and Sea Mission is not alone: 58% of soup kitchens and food pantries in Brooklyn reported a “great increase” in clients over the past year, and the numbers are expected to rise.

As soup kitchens and food pantries like Salt and Sea issue pleas for donations to cover the holiday season, low-income New Yorkers and food providers continue to be overwhelmed by the pervasiveness of the crisis. Says Coney Island food pantry customer Irina Ouchakova, “there’s nowhere to go. It’s like this everywhere.”

NYCCAH’s 2008 Hunger Survey confirms the observation, with emergency food programs in all five boroughs reporting significant increases in demand and diminished funding from government and other sources.

Still, hope remains that the crisis may spark new, bi-partisan efforts to end hunger once and for all. NYCCAH’s Hunger Survey serves as a tool for this kind of focused advocacy which, when coupled with President-elect Obama’s pledge to end child hunger in America by 2015, will bring us closer to ensuring that families across the City finally get the food they need.

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