The number of New York residents who report having difficulty affording essential food has increased 55% during the last five years, to 3.1 million, and now includes record numbers of middle-income families, according to a report released yesterday by the Food Bank for New York City. The report blames the increase on rising food costs.
The percentage of families with incomes between $50,000 and $75,000 that say they have difficulty paying for food has nearly doubled in that time period, to 27% in 2007 from 14% in 2003. The percentage of college graduates reporting such problems nearly doubled in the last year alone, to 35% in 2007 from 18% in 2006. Among the boroughs, Bronx residents are currently the most affected, with 50% reporting trouble buying food, versus 30% of Manhattan residents, the lowest percentage citywide, according to the report.
"Not every person who expressed fear is necessarily going hungry," the City Council speaker, Christine Quinn, said yesterday at a press conference related to the study, "but what this study shows is that with the rising cost of rents, the rising cost of gas, the rising cost of food, more and more New Yorkers are worried."
She suggested that the city expand efforts to enroll eligible residents into federal food stamp programs in order to help soften the impact of higher food prices.
With Mayor Bloomberg and Ms. Quinn currently negotiating a budget that includes broad cuts to government spending, Ms. Quinn said yesterday that hunger was "a priority issue" for the council. In her State of the City address in February, Ms. Quinn said there were "moral lines we simply can't cross" as the city adjusts to a possible recession, and she singled out combating hunger as one example.