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One in Five Children Returning to School Today in NYC Depend on Emergency Food Assistance

Food Bank For New York City Releases "Growing Up Hungry in New York City: An Analysis of Hunger Among Children"

New York, NY September 5, 2006 — Millions of children in New York City go back to school today and one in five (18 percent) rely on emergency food programs such as soup kitchens and food pantries for assistance. Forty percent of families with children throughout the city experienced difficulty affording food in 2005 and more than one-third (34 percent) did not purchase food at some time during the year. These are the findings of Growing Up Hungry in New York City: An Analysis of Hunger Among Children, the first-ever policy paper from the Food Bank For New York City to recognize childhood hunger as an urgent issue and to document emerging trends.

Complete findings are being released today in conjunction with the Anti-hunger Policy Platform for New York State and City 2007–2012, the first collaborative effort by state and city anti-hunger organizations to address federal, state, and city policies and funding, at the Food Bank's 15th Annual Agency Conference — an event that brings together more than 500 members of the city's hunger-relief community to discuss solutions for ending hunger. New York City Council Speaker, Christine C. Quinn, whose administration has set a goal of reducing the number of hungry New Yorkers by half over the next four years, will deliver the keynote address in support of the Growing Up Hungry policy paper.

"This summer marked a milestone for the hunger relief community when a collective of city and state anti-hunger organizations, including representatives from emergency food programs, came together to address specific hunger-related policies and funding," said Dr. Lucy Cabrera, Ph.D., President and CEO of the Food Bank. "The policy platform that is being presented today is a result of those meetings and expresses the first unified voice on hunger policy to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to affordable, nutritious food."

According to the findings released today, hunger among children has reached a crisis in New York City. Research conducted by the Food Bank shows that approximately one-third (or 29 percent) of New Yorkers who receive emergency food are children. This is not surprising given that the latest statistics released by the Census Bureau reveals that more one in four children (28 percent) in New York City under the age of 18 lives below the federal poverty level (526,083 children living in poverty in New York City out of 1.9 million children). This figure is 43 percent higher than the percentage of children living below poverty in New York State (19.4 percent) and 50 percent higher than the national average (18.5 percent).

Further, between 2000 and 2005, the number of children living in poverty in New York City has increased by five percent and there is indication that this trend will continue. Multiple factors, including low wages, lack of healthcare and rising costs of basic necessities, exacerbate the effects of poverty by making it difficult for families to afford food. As a result, poor health including high rates of obesity and diabetes among low-income children have shown a dramatic increase. More than 40 percent of children in the NYC Head Start program — many as young as two — are overweight or obese.

In addition, hungry children have difficulty learning. Among emergency food program participants with children, 46 percent have less than a high school degree while 36 percent have a high school degree or equivalent. Only 10 percent have completed some college.

Children who go to school hungry often cannot reach their full potential. As adults, they have difficulty finding jobs. The jobs that they do find pay poorly, which prevents them from making ends meet for their own families. And without enough money...the cycle will continue to repeat.

Despite the extraordinarily high levels of child hunger and food insecurity, child nutrition programs are underutilized. As little as two-thirds (64 percent) of EFP participant households with school-age children participate in the National School Lunch Program and only one-half (49 percent) participate in the School Breakfast program — despite the Universal School Breakfast program in NYC.

The Anti-hunger Policy Platform for New York State and City 2007–2012 offers both short and long-term solutions to hunger, including support for the creation of two new governmental bodies to centralize and coordinate policy — a New York State Council on Food, Hunger and Nutrition Policy and a New York City Office of Food Hunger and Nutrition Policy. The policy expresses a unified voice on hunger policy and represents a concrete coalition of groups determined to eliminate hunger and ensure that all New Yorkers have access to affordable, nutritious food.

At least two million New York City residents are at risk of going hungry. The majority of them are women with children, the elderly, the disabled and the working poor. Food Bank For New York City, the city's primary supplier of food for the hungry, helps provide the food for more than 250,000 free meals served each day by more than 1,200 nonprofit community food programs in the five boroughs. Last year, the Food Bank distributed more than 67 million pounds of food and was recognized as the 2004/05 Food Bank of the Year by America's Second Harvest, The Nation's Food Bank Network. For more information, visit our website at

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