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From The Front Lines to The Bread Lines...NYC Veterans Struggling to Afford Food, According to Report Released Today by the Food Bank For New York City


Nearly 1 in 3 Veterans’ Households Concerned about Needing Food Assistance Within the Next Year

New York, NY – November 10, 2011 – A new report released today by the Food Bank For New York City, the city’s major hunger-relief organization working to end food poverty throughout the five boroughs, shows that 25 percent of all households with a military veteran in New York City are experiencing difficulty affording food. The report, From the Front Lines to the Bread Lines: Food Poverty Among Veterans, reveals that veterans’ households are making a range of sacrifices in order to make ends meet: more than one in ten are unable to buy food because of rent or utilities; many more are reducing the quantity and quality of food they are purchasing. Further, the data show more than one third of veteran households would not be able to afford food for their families within three months of losing their household income.

“This report presents an unexpected and grim picture of returning military personnel and retired veterans losing the battle against unemployment, low and/or stagnant incomes and spiraling costs for food and other basic necessities. It is unacceptable on all fronts," said Margarette Purvis, President and CEO of the Food Bank For New York City. "Veterans are returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan to high unemployment and threats to nutrition assistance programs in the current federal budget. We’re calling on Congress protect these programs against cuts that would drastically reduce vital food support for those who need our assistance the most, including the men and women who fought on the front lines.”

“I commend the Food Bank for highlighting the important issue of veteran hunger,” said Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “The Council has a long history of fighting hunger and supporting our veterans, and with this new data, we’ll be able to better identify and help those in need. We will continue to aid veterans by connecting them to vital benefits and programs to prevent hunger and homelessness, as well as to quality medical care and counseling services. The brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country deserve nothing less.”

The findings in this report are consistent with recent studies by various organizations representing military veterans, as well as data tracked by the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For example, the 2010 unemployment rate among veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan was almost 12 percent, in contrast to the approximately 9 percent national average.  Similarly, rates of homelessness are higher among veterans than the general population.  Additional findings indicate that female veterans and veterans of color are disproportionately impacted by food poverty and mirror secondary data showing disproportionate rates of homelessness among the same population

A number of veterans’ organizations anticipate that employment and poverty among veterans will be exacerbated by the expected return of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan before the end of the year, and are calling on Congress to expedite the passage of legislation focused on helping veterans find jobs. Although the House passed its employment bill, the Veterans Opportunity to Work Act (H.R. 2433), in October 2011, the Senate has yet to pass the Hiring Heroes Act of 2011.

The findings in this special report demonstrate that veterans are not expecting their circumstances to improve soon. Almost one third are concerned about needing food assistance, including food stamps (also known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP) or emergency food from soup kitchens and/or food pantries within the next twelve months. Threats to nutrition assistance programs in the current federal budget and deficit reduction negotiations are giving rise to concern among hunger and poverty organizations that even basic food assistance may not be available when needed, and veterans and nonveterans alike may find themselves left without even the lifeline of a soup kitchen or food pantry.    


Key report findings are below:

DIFFICULTY AFFORDING FOOD

  • Throughout 2011, one out of four (25 percent) households with a military veteran (veteran households) experienced difficulty affording food
  • Veteran households account for nearly one out of ten (9 percent) of all NYC households experiencing difficulty affording food.


IMPACT OF LOSS OF HOUSEHOLD INCOME

  • More than one out of seven (15 percent) veteran households would not be able to afford needed food immediately after losing their household income.
  • More than one out of three (34 percent) veteran households would not be able to afford needed food within three months of losing their household income.


CONCERN ABOUT FOOD ASSISTANCE

  • Almost one out of three (30 percent) veteran households are concerned about needing food assistance, including food stamps (SNAP) or emergency food (soup kitchens and food pantries) within the next 12 months.


INABILITY TO AFFORD FOOD AND COPING MECHANISMS

  •  More than one out of ten (11 percent) veteran households did not have enough money to buy needed food at least once in the past twelve months.


Competing Living Expenses

  • More than one out of eight (13 percent) veteran households was unable to pay for food because they had to pay for rent.
  • More than one out of ten (11 percent) veteran households was unable to pay for food because they had to pay for utilities.
  • Approximately 6 percent of veteran households were unable to pay for food because they had to pay for transportation.
  • Approximately 5 percent of veteran households were unable to pay for food because they had to pay for medicine or medical care.


Food and Nutrition/Health Sacrifices
Throughout 2011, some veteran households were forced to sacrifice the quantity and quality of food they purchased/provided for their families and/or rely on assistance from community organizations and friends/families as follows:

Food Quantity Sacrifices

  • More than one out of seven (14 percent) veteran households skipped meals in order to save food or money.
  • Almost one out of three (32 percent) veteran households ate smaller meals in order to save food or money.
  • More than one out of four (28 percent) veteran households purchased less food in order to save food or money.
  • More than one out of six (17 percent) veteran households served fewer family members at mealtime in order to save food or money.
  • Almost one out of ten (8 percent) veteran households eliminated holiday meals or Sunday dinner in order to save food or money.


Food Quality Sacrifices

  • More than one out of seven (15 percent) veteran households purchased less healthy food in order to save food or money.
  • More than one out of five (22 percent) veteran households bought less fresh fruits and vegetables to stretch their grocery dollar.
  • More than one out of five (22 percent) veteran households bought less dairy products (such as milk, yogurt or cheese) to stretch their grocery dollar.
  • Almost two out of five (39 percent) veteran households bought less meat, poultry or fish to stretch their grocery dollar.


Reliance on Food Assistance

  • Almost one out of four (24 percent) veteran households ate meals at friends or relatives homes in order to save food or money.
  • Approximately one out of ten veteran households relied on emergency food assistance:

                     o    Four percent of veteran households ate meals at a soup kitchen or other emergency food program in order to save food or money.
                     o    More than one out of thirteen (7 percent) veteran households obtained food from a food pantry in order to save food or money.


EMPLOYMENT AND INCOME STATUS

  • Of all veteran households, almost two out of five (37 percent) have one or more household members who are employed, retired veterans account for almost half (48 percent) and the remaining 15 percent are not employed.
  • Almost one out of five (18 percent) veteran households has an annual income of less than $24,999.
  • More than one out of five (22 percent) veteran households has an annual income between $25,000 and $49,999.
  • More than one out of four (26 percent) veteran households has an annual income between $50,000 and $74,999.
  • More than one out of three (34 percent) veteran households has an annual income of more than $75,000.


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Food Bank For New York City contracts with the Marist Institute for Policy Opinion to conduct telephone interviews with a random and representative sample of city residents. Socio-demographic findings identify which populations throughout the five boroughs are having the greatest difficulty affording food throughout the year.  The complete 2011 report in this series is due to be released in December 2011.

About the Food Bank For New York City
Food Bank For New York City recognizes 28 years as the city’s major hunger-relief organization working to end food poverty throughout the five boroughs. As the city’s hub for integrated food poverty assistance, the Food Bank tackles the hunger issue on three fronts — food distribution, income support and nutrition education — all strategically guided by its research. Through its network of community-based member programs citywide, the Food Bank helps provide 400,000 free meals a day for New Yorkers in need. The Food Bank’s hands-on nutrition education program in the public schools reaches thousands of children, teens and adults. Income support services including food stamps, free tax assistance for the working poor and the Earned Income Tax Credit put millions of dollars back in the pockets of low-income New Yorkers, helping them to achieve greater dignity and independence. 94% of donations go directly toward food distribution, acquisition and programs in all five boroughs of New York City. Learn how you can help at foodbanknyc.org.

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