Thursday, December 10, 2009

Food Shortage Takes Toll on Local Pantries

The nationwide struggle to provide food for those in need has, according to statistics, left its mark on Queens county. A study which tracked the number of meals served in Queens this year as compared to 2006, shows a 106% increase for 2009 - an additional 14.3 million meals served. Overall 87,552 Queens households were either unable to obtain enough food for their families or were uncertain about having enough food. Throughout the county the total number of meals served between July 2008 and July 2009 is 27.7 million.

The term food insecurity has been coined to define households that are uncertain of having or acquiring enough food for all members and the number of those families rose in 2007 from just over 10 percent of U.S. households to nearly 15 percent by the end of 2008. Across New York, approximately 800,000 households are now food insecure, with the number of meals served by emergency food outlets across New York rising by early 60 million – an increase of 55 percent. In New York City, approximately 340,000 households are food insecure, with nearly 50 million more meals served by emergency food outlets since 2006 – an average increase of over 75 percent.

In response to the crisis, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has introduced legislation in an attempt to spearhead an increase in charitable donations this holiday season. The legislation will provide double federal funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), make the Good Samaritan Hunger Relief Tax Incentive permanent to encourage more businesses to fill food banks with unused food items, and extend tax credits that incentivize seniors to donate portions of their retirement savings to New York charities.

“The holiday season is a time for giving, but because of the bad economy, New York families that typically donate food, warm clothes and other basics to those in need just can’t afford to this year,” Senator Gillibrand said. “As a result, food bank shelves have gone bare, and hunger and food insecurity have reached disturbing, historic highs. We need to make sure we’re helping New York children and families who were hit the hardest by this economy. So this holiday season, I have a plan to double federal funding for emergency food outlets like food pantries and soup kitchens, make tax credits permanent for businesses that donate to food banks, and extend tax credits for seniors who donate to New York charities.”

Charitable giving fell 2 percent to $308 billion last year -- the first decline since 1987, according to the annual report published at Indiana University, Giving USA. It is also estimated that corporate giving through 2009 is expected to drop as much as 5 percent.

More than 50% of emergency food providers reported huge deficits in food resources in October due to rising poverty and food prices according to a study by FeedingAmerica, a nonprofit national network of food banks.

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