Hunger in the city has worsened since cuts to federal food assistance programs last year, a report released Monday said.
About one in five New Yorkers rely on SNAP benefits for food. These needy residents lost more than 56 milion meals due to Congress reduced funding last November, according to the Food Bank for New York City.
Making the problem worse, the nonprofit group said that 80% of food pantries and soup kitchens saw more hungry people walk through its doors, with 60% of these locations running out of food in a single month.
"Knowing that the extent of food shortages at our city's food pantries and soup kitchens should come as little surprise, but it should compel our city's leaders to take action," Margarette Purvis, Food Bank's CEO, said in a statement.
Last year, 48% of food pantries and kitchens ran out of food and 26% turned people away because of the shortages. This year, 37% of pantries had to turn people away.
Even before the cuts, the Food Bank reports that Brooklyn had the highest annual "meal gap" -- the number of meals missing from food-insecure homes in 2012 -- with a shortfall of 88 million meals. The Bronx had the second highest gap, with a shortfall of 53 million meals. The neighborhoods with the highest gaps were in minority communities like East New York and the South Bronx.
The Food Bank said the best solution would be for Congress to restore the funds, but state and city governments can help by using federal waivers and options to lower barriers in accessing food. Local elected officials can also contribute to outreach efforts.
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who was honored by the Food Bank Monday for her work in fighting hunger, pledged that the city would raise awareness and resources to help the needy families.
"The Food Bank for New York has been a staunch partner in our fight against hunger and this report be will invaluable in our joint efforts to find long term solutions to permanently reduce food insecurity in our city," she said in a statement.