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As New York’s Billionaires Got Richer, Its Hunger Problem Got Worse

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"As New York’s Billionaires Got Richer, Its Hunger Problem Got Worse"

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The NYC skyline remains dark after Superstorm Sandy knocked out power.

Recent years have been good for New York City’s billionaires but worse for hungry families and the charities that serve them, according to a new report from the New York City Coalition Against Hunger (NYCCAH). The findings amount to “a tale of two food cities,” according to NYCCAH Executive Director and Center for American Progress fellow Joel Berg.

About 400,000 children, or one of every five citywide, lived in hunger during the 2010-2012 period, and overall 1.3 million New York City residents weren’t able to provide adequate nutrition for their families at some point over the course of a year, lacking food security. The data on hunger comes from the Census Bureau, which tracks the rate of food insecurity in three-year periods. One in ten senior citizens was food insecure during the same timeframe, meaning that nearly 176,000 New Yorkers older than 60 couldn’t feed themselves properly.

Each of these groups is experiencing a higher rate of food insecurity than in previous years, NYCCAH notes:

nyccah-chart

Meanwhile, Forbes data on the city’s richest citizens shows that the net worth of the 53 billionaires in New York City rose from $210 billion to $277 billion over the past two years, Berg notes.

The report puts the Census data alongside the findings of a survey it conducted of food charities that serve the general public in New York City. The survey sample is non-scientific, but the results indicate that hundreds of food providers have been forced to do more with less. Nearly six in ten food charities saw their total funding cut in 2013, compared to less than 11 percent that got their budgets increased. Demand has increased each year dating back to 2009, and jumped by 10 percent in 2013 according to the NYCCAH survey.

Over 45 percent of respondents said they had to reduce the portions they served, and about the same proportion said they cannot meet the need for their services with their current level of funding. Most respondents said they have enough volunteers, however.

Some of the increased hardship is due to federal cuts. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) has been cut repeatedly over the period NYCCAH analyzed — most recently by an automatic reduction in benefits that hit all recipients at the start of November — and seems headed for further belt-tightening given the state of negotiations in Congress.

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