Federal Stimulus Money Helps Hungry New Yorkers

The number of hungry New Yorkers has increased by almost 7 percent since last year, according to a survey by New York City Coalition Against Hunger and half of the feeding organizations surveyed had to turn hungry people away.

The Coalition's Joel Berg announced the results of the survey at a press conference at a soup kitchen on Manhattan's West Side. He said while the news is bad, it could have been worse. "The only reason we are not facing a full blown hunger catastrophe," said Berg, "is because the federal government programs as administered by the state and city are working as designed."

Those federal programs include the stimulus package and FEMA. Stimulus money is being used to increase the amount that food stamp recipients receive every month. That allowed families to stay away from food pantries and soup kitchens longer. Food stamps are now called SNAP for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

FEMA gave emergency funding directly to feeding programs for food purchases.

That may be the reason that this year's increase was not as dramatic as the one the year before. In 2009, there were 20 percent more hungry people than the year before and over 55 percent of feeding programs had to turn some of the hungry away.

The number of New Yorkers on SNAP/Food Stamps has increased dramatically from 200,000 people in June, 2009 to 1.7 million in September, 2010.

The Coalition surveys over 1,100 soup kitchens and food pantries in the New York area.