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Study reveals alarming hunger statistics in Brooklyn

Food Bank to expand financial literacy program to fight ‘meal gap’

February 11, 2015 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A Food Bank study shows five out of 16 Brooklyn community districts fall into the red category – meaning they are among the city’s hungriest areas. Map courtesy of Food Bank For New York City
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Across this gilded city, thousands of people are so poor they’re skipping meals.

Food Bank For New York City, the city’s major hunger relief organization, issued a report on Wednesday which paints a stark picture of hunger across the five boroughs. The study shows that Brooklyn has more residents skipping meals because they can’t afford to pay for food than any other borough — 88 million meals were missed in the borough in 2012, the period studied.

In terms of sheer numbers, Queens follows, with a “meal gap” of 55 million. The Bronx comes next, followed by Manhattan, then Staten Island.  

The Bronx has a smaller population than Brooklyn or Queens, however, meaning a higher percentage of residents are going hungry.

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“This data gives us a glimpse into what our city’s meal gap looks like: the working parent’s crushing debt stemming from a chronic shortfall of income to meet expenses; the inability to plan and save for a child’s future; and a depth of hunger that should not exist anywhere in America,” Margarette Purvis, President and CEO of Food Bank said Wednesday in a release.

Food Bank is expanding a program to bring not only food, but also financial education, to families through their local schools. Food Bank says financial coaching is essential for low-income households to overcome the constant crises that keep them hungry. The Financial Services in Schools program (FSS) capitalizes on the relationship that already exists between parents and their child’s school.

Two of the six pilot schools testing FSS are in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, one of the neighborhoods with the highest number of missed meals. Of the participants, 80 percent are female, 77 percent are Latino. More than 20 percent had skipped meals during the previous month. FSS is expanding to 18 schools across the city.

Food Bank is partnering with Citi, the NYC’s Department of Consumer Affairs, and the United Federation of Teachers to develop FSS.

Shocking statistics in a wealthy city

The statistics provided by Food Bank are alarming, especially considering the city’s vast wealth: More than 1.7 million New Yorkers participate in SNAP (formerly called Food Stamps) to help them purchase basic food necessities. Roughly 17 percent of the city’s residents are categorized as “food insecure,” a term used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Most upsetting is the statistic that almost 80 percent of public school kids are from families earning so little income that they qualify for free or reduced-price lunch at school.

Hunger has increased since Congress cut SNAP benefits in November 2013. Food pantries can’t keep up with the increased need, Food Bank says.

Brooklyn’s hunger map

Food Bank tracks the meal gap in each community district. A map of Brooklyn shows five out of 16 community districts in the red category – the city’s hungriest areas. Another six Brooklyn districts show serious hunger, while six more districts show a lesser level of meals missed.

Community Board 6, running from Red Hook to Cobble Hill, has the lowest number of meals missed in Brooklyn.

Brooklyn neighborhoods (by community board) falling into the red category include:

CB3: Bedford-Stuyvesant, Stuyvesant Heights, and Ocean Hill

CB5: East New York, Cypress Hills, Highland Park, New Lots, City Line, Starrett City, and Ridgewood

CB16: Brownsville and Ocean Hill

CB17: East Flatbush, Remsen Village, Farragut, Rugby, Erasmus and Ditmas Village

CB18: Canarsie, Bergen Beach, Mill Basin, Flatlands, Marine Park, Georgetown, and Mill Island.

 Other areas, ranging from central Brooklyn neighborhoods in CB8 like Crown Heights, to CB 11’s Gravesend, experience hunger to a lesser degree.

Participating Schools:

Community Health Academy of the Heights in Manhattan’s Washington Heights

P.S. 30 M Hernandez Hughes School in Manhattan’s East Harlem

P.S. 18 X John Peter Zenger in the South Bronx

International School for Liberal Arts in the north-west Bronx

P.S. 335 K Granville T Woods in Bedford-Stuyvesant

P.S. 584 (co-located with P.S. 335) in Bedford-Stuyvesant

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