NEW YORK - The number of people in New York who need food is growing, according to the Food Bank for New York City, which distributed more than 121 million meals in 2021 and is on track for even more this year.
"It is the worst that we have ever seen it," Food Bank's Janis Robinson, the vice president for institutions and partnerships, told FOX 5 NY. "That is the largest number that we have ever experienced and the number has only grown from there."
The Food Bank for New York City runs the community kitchen and pantry in Harlem as well as a number of other soup kitchens around the five boroughs that provide thousands of families every week with hot meals or grab-and-go groceries.
People are struggling because the cost of groceries has gone up, Robinson said. Unemployment is another problem — some people haven't returned to work after losing jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.
"We thought that we would be at a much reduced level of support at this time but the need has just grown significantly," Robinson said. "We're seeing about 93% more people in our lines than we did over a year ago."
Just last week, Mayor Eric Adams declared a state of emergency due to the influx of asylum seekers straining the shelter system.
The newcomers have also stretched food pantry supplies, Robinson said. Migrant families don't have a place to prepare food so they get ready-to-eat meals.
"We are still very, very poised to provide as much support as we can — the challenge is that while we may not be able to give as much food out, we're reducing the amount," Robinson said. "So some of the pantry bags may be smaller than we might otherwise like."
The hunger problem is not exclusive to New York City. Food pantries across the country are feeling the strain and need help. The Food Bank for New York City welcomes donations and volunteers.
Robinson said she is very concerned about the holidays. The price of turkeys has gone up, which means the Food Bank won't be able to feed as many families this Thanksgiving.