Ninety percent of the more than 200 Brooklyn food pantries and soup kitchens surveyed by the New York City Campaign Against Hunger reported increased demand over the last year. The survey said two out of every three agencies were unable to meet this spike in requests for assistance.
Experts blame the increased demand at food pantries and soup kitchens on a number of factors, including rising unemployment amid the nation's continuing economies woes and rising food prices. In Brooklyn, the unemployment rate is 9.7 percent, compared to the citywide rate of 8.8 percent.
From August 2010 to August 2011 the average price of food in the New York metropolitan area increased by nearly 5 percent, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since the start of the recession in December 2007, the price index for food in the New York region has increased by more than 12 percent.
In recent weeks, food supplies also have been affected by damage from Tropical Storm Irene. Damage to crops has forced many upstate farms to reduce shipments of agricultural produce to agencies that supply the food pantries and soup kitchens, and to restaurants that often donate excess food that is not prepared and served.
The increased need for food cuts across age groups. The NYC Campaign Against Hunger survey said 39 percent of the responding food pantries and soup kitchens indicated that the number of seniors requesting help increased greatly, while nearly half reported a great increase in families with children seeking assistance over the last year.
FeedNYC, an emergency food database, said that since fiscal year 2008, the year the financial crisis began, there has been a 22.8 percent spike in the number of families seeking food assistance.
The number of New York households reporting very low food security rose by 56 percent in 2010, according to a USDA report. The USDA defines very low food security as a household having multiple indicators of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.
In response to the increased demand food pantries and soup kitchens, some New Yorkers have increased their donations. FeedNYC reported a slight increase in charitable food donations from July and August 2010 to July and August 2011. The agency said it received 486,000 more pounds of food during July and August this year than during the same period of 2010 – an average of about two additional pounds per donation.
Read the rest of our 'Lunchtime, Tuesday' reports:
At Brooklyn Pantries & Kitchens, New Need is Getting Old