WWW.QNS.COM RIDGEWOOD TIMES DECEMBER 5, 2019 17
Food insecurity in Queens at pre-recession levels: Report
BY MAX PARROTT
Just in time for Queens residents to
refl ect on what they’re thankful for at
the Thanksgiving table, Hunger Free
America released a report that shows
food insecurity in Queens continues
aff ect the borough, aggravated by the
area’s rising cost of living.
Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America,
announced the release of the report
Tuesday morning at the Hour Children
Food Pantry in Long Island City. He was
joined by Assemblywoman Catherine
Nolan and representatives from the offi
ces of Councilman Francisco Moya and
Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
While the number of Queens residents
who experienced food insecurity has
decreased in recent years, the number
of people who rely on food pantries
continues to increase, the report found.
About 68 percent of Queens emergency
food programs reported an increase in
the number of people served in 2019.
“The good news is that things are
marginally better than they were at the
height of the recession,” said Berg. “The
bad news is that because New York City
and Queens are so unaff ordable, we still
have the same level of hunger today that
we had a decade ago.”
The number of Queens residents
who experienced food insecurity in
2016-2018 totals 189,178, according to the
Hunger Free America report. This is
down from 244,863 Queens residents
in 2013-2015 and 268,796 in 2006-2008.
While the number of people in New York
City who are food insecure decreased by
nearly 27 percent over the last six years,
one in eight city residents still struggled
Part of this downward trend is
explained by New York state’s push to
increase access to supplemental food
benefi ts. In 2016, Gov. Cuomo expanded
the number of residents who are eligible
for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance
Program (SNAP) benefi ts by raising the
Gross Income Test level to 150 percent
of the poverty line. This made an extra
750,000 households eligible for the benefi
t across the state.
“We must continue to support governmental
policies that provide dignifi ed
support to families,” Nolan said. She
added that securing additional SNAP
funding would be a budget fi ght.
Meanwhile, the cost of living in the
city keeps going up. Many neighborhoods
in Queens, historically known
as a bedrock of the city’s working class,
are increasingly unaffordable to its
residents. Sister Tesa Fitzgerald, executive
director of Hour Children, said that
she has noticed bigger crowds of people
at her panty located in a gentrifying
neighborhood over the past year.
“We’ve seen an increase in people
coming, desperate for food for everyday
living,” Fitzgerald said.
The report also found that half of its
respondents commenting on President
Trump’s Public Charge law, described
a change in the number of immigrants
served in the past.
In October, federal judges made a
preliminary injunction halting the
rule would make it more diffi cult for
immigrants to get green cards if it looks
as though they might need public assistance.
But the report found that it had
already started to have a chilling eff ect
on immigrants seeking government
About 29 percent of emergency food
pantries witnessed an increase in immigrants
utilizing their services as a result
of disenrollment from SNAP.
“This time of year, people are incredibly
generous, especially with food
drives. But hunger of course is yearround,
and donations are what keeps
us going. We’re grateful for people who
remember us and their neighbors in
need even when the holidays are over,”
said Sister Fitzgerald.
Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America. Photo: Max Parrott/QNS
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