New York City, the center of global finance and home to far more millionaires than any other city in the nation, is clearly a wealthy place. Despite this, 1.4 million of the Big Apple's eight million residents report that they cannot afford the most basic life necessity -- food.
These individuals rely on soup kitchens and other sources to get the nourishment they need. In sum, The Food Bank for New York City reports that around 3.3 million New Yorkers experience difficulty affording food for themselves and their families.
In an article for The Conducive Chronicle entitled "The Urban Hunger Problem: Causes and Solutions," Jessica Hullinger sheds light on three of the underlying causes of hunger in large metropolitan areas like New York City.
Certainly the principle reason that so many New Yorkers struggle to afford food is that they have very limited resources and must pay significantly more for basic necessities. According to CNN.com's Cost of Living Calculator, the cost of groceries in Queens is 43 percent more than in Buffalo (upstate New York). Groceries in Manhattan cost a whopping 76 percent more. The cost of housing in Queens is 144 percent more than in Buffalo, and housing in Manhattan is costs 314 percent more! And, according to Hullinger,
"Overall, the cost of food in New York City increased by 24 percent between 2003 and 2009."
This means that families earning minimum wage ($7.25 an hour in New York state) must make the same wages cover food costs of at least 43 percent more than those upstate making the same amount. When one considers this, it is no suprise that "more than 30 percent of households here that already need food assistance have to choose between paying for groceries and paying for utilities (i.e. heating their houses in the winter). Further, one-third of these households choose between food and rent."
Another factor enabling rampant hunger in New York is the lack of accessible, affordable and healthy food options in many low-income neighborhoods. Many of these areas are food deserts, or, areas that, according to Conductive Chronicle:
"... [lack] access to adequate-and affordable-sources of nutritious foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat milk. "Lack of access" may describe either a dearth of neighborhood markets offering healthy food choices or an absence of easy methods of transportation to grocery stores outside the immediate area."
In New York, healthy food is more expensive, and, due to financial constraints, families barely scraping by are more likely to buy food that is cheaper and less nutritious.
There is another problem that hampers the ability of city residents to eat properly. When people just don't have the money to put food on the table, many do not know where to go to ask for help. Less than 40 percent of New Yorkers know where to find a food program in their neighborhood. And the lack of coordination between food programs, as well as their chronic underfunding, are problems which, if properly addressed, would help many more hungry people find assistance.
In addition to elucidating some important factors which contribute to pervasive hunger in New York City, Hullinger's piece points to some good resources for those looking for affordable, nutritious food options. Community gardens and farmers' markets, some of which accept food stamps, provide community members with often unique access to fresh and affordable produce. GreenThumb provides a mapping tool which allows users to find the community garden closest to them.
This Thanksgiving season, Here's Life is going to feed thousands of families in America's inner cities. But, it's only through your partnership that providing families with Boxes of Love is possible. Please consider "Dining In" with us or simply giving a gift to sponsor meals that will feed hungry bellies, while also connecting families in need to transformational programs.