Financial coaching services "are absolutely essential for low-income" families that often bounce from crisis to crisis as they are forced to skip meals and reduce their food intake, according to a new report by the Food Bank for New York City.
The report addressed the first 10 months of a pilot program, "Financial Services in the Schools" , that helped 254 families access programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and on-site food pantries, and which helped them improve their financial management and budgeting skills.
"Even at low incomes, families that are better able to manage household finances are less likely to experience food insecurity," said the report, "The Meal Gap Under the Microscope: New York City Families at the Intersection of Food & Financial Insecurity."
Hunger is shockingly prevalent in New York City, where residents experienced a " gap" of 250 million "missing" meals in 2012, according to the report.
Bronx residents and families with children -- especially young children -- are most likely to experience hunger. Two out of five New York City families (42%) have inadequate income to afford the "basic necessities" for survival, with the need for food competing with other "musts" such as rent and transportation.
Overall, one in five New Yorkers -- roughly 1.4 million -- is at risk of hunger and a sobering 79% of all city public school children qualify for free or reduced cost lunches, according to research cited by the Food Bank.
Long-term goals for participants in the program include decreasing the difficulty of affording food and other necessities, decreasing financial stress and increasing planning and saving for children's higher education.