‘Tis the season to get into the holiday spirit, and, without being trite, to remember those less fortunate. In that vein, I wanted to share two recent articles that served as my stark reminder.
Nick Freudenberg of the NYC Food Policy Center at Hunter College compiled a number of grim statistics from several recent reports on hunger and poverty in the city. These reports are by the Food Bank for New York City, the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, and the Women’s Center for Education and Career Advancement. His overview is available here, with links to the reports in question. The reports’ common theme is that despite all of the good news we’re hearing about an economic recovery, lower income residents across the city are still relying on food pantries, soup kitchens, food banks, and the like to make ends meet each month after the wages and SNAP benefits run out. Freudenberg points out that “despite the heroic and persistent efforts of anti-hunger groups, New York City does not seem to be making much progress in reducing the number or rates of poverty, hunger or food insecurity.”
The NYTimes poignantly emphasizes this lack of economic trickle down in its most recent Working Life column. Author Rachel Swarns profiles a working father of two, a Mr. José Gutiérrez, who regularly visits his neighborhood food pantry for staples to feed his family. This father’s and other’s need for other sources of food has only increased since food stamp cuts went into effect via the 2014 Farm Bill. And of course during this time of year there’s extra pressure to provide a merry Christmas for loved ones. Mr. Gutiérrez’s youngest daughter gave him her wish list and “he plans to give her a winter coat and one toy on her list. Santa, he told her, can carry only so much on his sleigh.”
As a whole, the economy is looking up – but it certainly doesn’t feel that way for the 2.7 million members of the 940,000 New York households who had difficulty meeting basic needs, including food, housing, healthcare, and childcare, in 2014.