A separate survey found that although the demand at New York City food pantries and soup kitchens increased by 12 percent, 79 percent of them suffered from reduced funding.
“Child and adult hunger levels are soaring,” said NYCCH Executive Director Joel Berg in a statement, “while our front line nonprofit feeding agencies are being starved out of business by government cuts.”
Nearly 50 emergency feeding programs were closed, partly due to government cutbacks and fewer private donations this year.
The Coalition’s report, “Not Too Big to Fail: As NYC Hunger Soars, Feeding Programs Close Due to Government Cuts,” also shows that 1.47 million city residents are what the government calls “food insecure.”
“How is it that our leaders in Washington find Wall Street firms ‘too big to fail,’ but lose little sleep allowing American children to go without food and allowing soup kitchens and food pantries to close?” asked Berg.
This year, the federal Emergency Food and Shelter Programs funding, which finances hundreds of pantries and kitchens, was reduced from $5.1 million to $3.5 million, a 40 percent cut.
“It’s simply unacceptable that in this economic climate the federal government refuses to do more to help New York’s neediest,” said Councilwoman Annabel Palma.
The NYCCH survey also showed that 55 percent of city’s pantries and kitchens had fewer private donations this year than in 2010.
Largely as a result of these cutbacks, agencies were forced to close and those that stayed open often lessened their services.
At least 47 feeding programs have shut down entirely over the last few years, some due to management challenges and leadership transitions, but many cite federal funding cuts as the main reason.
As food programs decreased in federal funding, increases were added to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program.
As of September 2011, 1.8 million residents received SNAP benefits. Low-income city families receive an estimated $3.4 billion worth of food from the program in 2011. In August 2011, the average SNAP benefit in New York City was $285 per month in a household.
“Unfortunately, to pay for other priorities, President Obama and Congress cut SNAP funding twice last year by phasing out the stimulus-based increases earlier than planned,” Berg said.
The Coalition called for federal, state, and city governments to support food programs, such as SNAP, establish new programs to create living-wage jobs in low-income communities, and provide sufficient government funding for charitable food distribution organizations.
“If we want to make meaningful improvements to eliminate child hunger," Palma said, "Congress must reinstate cuts to SNAP immediately and vote down any proposal to reduce federal dollars appropriated to New York State."