Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Times weighs in on NYC hunger

A much-anticipated Sunday editorial in The New York Times took on the issue of hunger in New York City. The editorial speaks for itself:

What if, before your next meal, you first had to fill out paperwork and then wait hours in a crowded office to be interviewed and fingerprinted? That is not a hypothetical situation for many of New York's working poor--hundreds of thousands of whom are eligible for food stamps but do not get them because of unnecessary bureaucratic obstacles.

Recent studies by the Urban Justice Center and others document how difficult and degrading it can be for the hungry to get help. Despite improvements, like the state-mandated reduction in paperwork, the city still must regain ground lost under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who built a wall of red tape to express his distaste for the program.

For many of the working poor, food stamps are a necessity, often the difference between having to decide whether to pay the rent or eat. According to various estimates, New York has effectively turned its back on more than $700 million in federal funds that it would receive if every eligible New Yorker enrolled in the food stamp program. That money would be spent in grocery stores and bodegas, boosting the local economy.

The City Council, led by Bill de Blasio of Brooklyn and Eric Gioia of Queens, has been prodding the Human Resources Administration to accept applications by fax and to allow people to apply online and at food pantries and soup kitchens. The Bloomberg administration should embrace these ideas.

One hopeful sign is Mayor Michael Bloomberg's s appointment of Linda Gibbs to be deputy mayor for human resources. Ms. Gibbs helped shape the city's program for the homeless. It is the city's hungry who now require her attention. She could start by instructing workers to stop fingerprinting every applicant. New York is one of a few states that requires this costly and obstructive process. Hunger is indignity enough.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The budget is in

City budget information is now available in the form of a report. Among the revelations is that the city has allocated $8.4 million for food support in 2006 but will pay only $32,000 of the administrative costs of food stamps. So, it turns out, the Food Stamp Program is not costing New York City much at all.

Friday, January 20, 2006

City Council report on hunger

The New York City Council's report on food stamps access, "Empty Cupboards," provides a bracing look at a system that currently underserves New Yorkers. It is available here.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Columnist: Political will can end NYC hunger

In a Jan. 19 Daily News column, Albor Ruiz argued that New York City can end hunger if politicians take steps to ensure families get enough to eat. A good start, he writes, would be increasing the percentage of eligible New Yorkers who receive food stamps by implementing several city laws passed this summer. "The failures of welfare reform--as well as continued underparticipation in the Food Stamp Program--in New York City are forcing more people into poverty, hunger and homelessness than into living wage jobs," said Joel Berg, executive director of the New York Coalition Against Hunger.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Coalition coordinates MLK Serve-A-Thon

The New York City Coalition Against Hunger coordinated its third annual Martin Luther King Day Serve-A-Thon this weekend, bringing New York volunteers into food pantries and soup kitchens to serve their low-income neighbors and honor Dr. King's legacy. East Side Entrees donated 25,000 breakfasts for children in association with the got Breakfast? campaign, led by former Senators Bob Dole and George McGovern. Volunteer opportunities were available in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens.

School food: C-minus, but looking up

Food may be improving in New York Schools, particularly in terms of nutrition, but students and advocates say it has a long way to go before it reaches quality and taste standards. Progress should be ramped up--the alternatives include paying for lunch, eating unnutritious food, or not eating enough. None of these options are worthy of our children.

Poor neighborhoods faced with junk options

Low-income neighborhoods often get the short shrift when it comes to healthy food options, according to the New York City Coalition Against Hunger and the New Yorkers who live in these neighborhoods.

"Often people buy less nutritious, more fattening food and get fat because it's cheaper to do so," Executive Director Joel Berg said. "People will travel ridiculously long distances to go to farmers' markets, travel long distances to go to supermarkets."

Food stamps need to be accessible, officials say

In light of a City Council investigation revealing accessibility problems for food stamps, anti-hunger advocates and elected officials gathered Saturday to challenge the city to do more to increase food stamps participation. Among the officials were New York City Councilman Eric Gioia, State Senator Liz Krueger, and Assemblyman Felix Ortiz. The City Council passed three bills last summer designed to increase accessibility, but the city's implementation has been slow. In the meantime, families are hurting.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Diabetes linked to poor food access

In its Jan. 9 issue, the New York Times offers an extensive analysis of the diabetes crisis that has ensnared the city in recent years. Diabetes frequently results in large part due to a poor diet, which, among certain populations, can be the byproduct of inadequate access to healthy, low-cost foods.

NY food stamps access among the lowest

The Food Resource Action Center has released a state-by-state ranking for food stamps access, and New York again comes out near the bottom. From 2003 to 2004, the state held steady at 41st among all states. Just about 58 percent of eligible New Yorkers received food stamps, up from 54.4 percent the previous year.

Weiner calls attention to NYC hunger problem

U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) cited statistics from the city and other sources in noting that food pantries and soup kitchens served more meals to New Yorkers in 2005 than in 2004. Combined with the difficulty of obtaining food stamps, the data suggest an increasing problem of hunger in New York City. One newspaper concluded the city and state must do more. Weiner was joined at the well attended and widely publicized event by City Councilman Eric Gioia, Coalition Against Hunger Executive Director Joel Berg, and others.

Tops on the wish list: no more hunger

In a New Year's Day column for the Daily News, Albor Ruiz makes several wishes to ease the suffering of New Yorkers. He writes:

No more hunger in New York. No city resident should have to agonize any longer over where his family's next meal will come from. I wish this year for the mayor to overcome his lack of interest and to take effective measures to put an end to this shame of the city. Inexcusably, despite its wealth, one in seven city York residents face going hungry or lack sufficient access to food. As any of the hundreds of thousands of people who suffer can tell you, hunger does not wait.

And on Queens City Council members' respective lists of goals for 2006, Eric Gioia mentioned feeding hungry people and enabling food stamps access.