Hunger in America is on the rise. National statistics show that from 2006 - 2010, the number of Americans who were food insecure — meaning unable to obtain adequate food — rose by 37%. This hunger defies stereotypes; it encompasses cities, rural areas, and suburbs. It hits the college educated as well as working poor families. Senior citizens, sometimes torn between paying for prescription meds or buying food, are increasingly in need of food assistance. Children are vulnerable too, as lack of adequate nutrition hinders their cognitive and behavioral development, impacting their school performance.
Despite the reputation of Long Island as a prosperous suburban area, hunger is a very real fact of life for many families here as well. According to recent statistics, the two major food banks on Long Island, Island Harvest and LI Cares, provide emergency food for an estimated 316,000 Long Islanders every year. Approximately 64,900 different people receive emergency food every week. The ongoing effects of the sluggish economy and lingering unemployment has triggered more need for food assistance: the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance reports that, between 2010 and 2011, the number of households receiving food stamps increased by 23% in Nassau and 20% in Suffolk. Seniors in need are also a growing group; according to figures from Catholic Charities, Long Island has 40,000 persons, aged 60 or over, who live on $1,000 a month or less. Anecdotally, all the major pantry and soup kitchen operators say their numbers have been increasing over the past few years.
On Long Island:
- 316,000 people on Long Island seek food assistance every year – a 37% increase from 2006.
- 80% of Long Island food pantries reported an increase in the number of people they serve since 2006.
- 25% of parents interviewed said their children had gone hungry at least once in the past year because they didn't have money to buy food.
- 44% said they had to choose between buying food and paying for utilities during that time.
- About 20% seeking food assistance were homeowners.