NEW YORK - The inability to properly feed themselves or their families is an issue seldom talked about but, sadly, all too real for more than a million New York City residents.
Using census data collected during the pandemic, the New York State Health Foundation, or NYSHealth, found that 12% of New Yorkers reported going hungry this past March. That is an improvement from March 2020 but just barely.
"Food insecurity levels have thankfully eased a bit since the height of the pandemic. But the stark reality remains that millions of New Yorkers will go to bed hungry tonight or not knowing where their next meal is coming from," NYSHealth CEO David Sandman said in a statement. "Without access to affordable and nutritious food, New Yorkers can't be healthy and thrive."
The vast majority are Black and Hispanic; 20% of Black New Yorkers and 29% of Hispanic New Yorkers reported household food scarcity in March 2021. Those rates are about four to six times higher than the rate among white New Yorkers.
And many have children.
"In March 2021, more than 1 in 5 adults with children in their household reported that the children were often or sometimes not eating enough in the prior week, because the household could not afford enough food," NYSHealth said in a summary of the findings. "This was the highest rate since data collection on child food scarcity began in June 2020."
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Mark Zezza, the director of policy and research for NYSHealth, said the survey showed that many New Yorkers rely on unsustainable funding sources just to put food on the table such as taking loans from friends and family, racking up credit card debt, and using the pandemic stimulus payments.
Hungry New Yorkers have only so many places to get food. Food pantries have seen demand skyrocket in the last year. Many children who normally relied on free lunch at school lost those meals during remote learning.
"Millions of New Yorkers have lost their jobs or are living on a reduced income in the last 14 months, and that’s affecting their ability to afford food," Zezza said. "New York needs to continue to implement creative, sustainable solutions to meet the needs of hungry families."
Some of the people waiting for fresh produce and shelf-stable items at a pantry on Fulton Street in Brooklyn told FOX 5 NY that they never experienced food insecurity before the pandemic hit.
You can read NYSHealth's full report here.