Food Bank of NYC: 9 out of 10 food pantries, soup kitchens say they’re serving more people

A lot more people are going hungry this holiday season, a report says.

It’s hungry out there.

Nine out of ten food pantries and soup kitchens report more visitors seeking food than two years ago, according to a new report, “Hunger Cliff NYC: Bridging a City’s Monthly 5.3 Million Meal Loss” issued by the Food Bank of NYC.

More than a third — 36% — of food pantries and soup kitchens reported turning people away this September because they had run out of food, or because they ran out of the particular types of food they needed to make meals or pantry bags.

Hunger has worsened in NYC since a dramatic across-the-board reduction to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, aka “food stamps”) was implemented in November 2013: That budget slashing prompted a flood of additional food demand that has continued unabated, said the report.

Yet, a “silver lining” in the form of a $2 million-plus federal grant to the local Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Program alleviated some of the need: While 60% of pantries and food kitchens reported running out of adequate pantry bags or meals in September 2014, 49% reported doing so this September. Similarly, 61% of pantries reduced the amount of food they put in their bags in Sept. 2014, but only 45% said they did so this September. And 37% of food pantries and soup kitchens reported turning people away because of shortages in Sept. 2014 — ever so slightly more than the 36% that did so this year.

The findings should “serve as a cautionary tale as our state prepares to reimpose punitive time limits on receipt of SNAP benefits for as many as 249,000 able-bodied adults without dependents as a result of a provision passed in the most recent Farm Bill, the Agricultural Act of 2014,” said the Food Bank report. For those individuals, any three jobless months in any three-year period “will result in the complete loss of SNAP benefits if they are not participating in an approved employment and training program — regardless of whether such a program is available.”

Sheila Anne Feeney