The number of people who are hungry in central and northern New York is climbing. The latest survey from the Food Bank of Central New York shows an increase in food requests as well as some changes in the kinds of people who are asking for help.
At the height of the recession in 2008-2009, the Food Bank of Central New York saw a 12 percent increase in the number of meals requested across its 11-county service area. Those numbers stabilized, but now they are going back up -- climbing seven percent last year.
Food Bank executive director Kathleen Stress also notes the demographics of those who use the Food Bank are changing as well. For example, in the latest regional hunger assessment of the central and northern New York Area, Stress finds education doesn’t protect people from food insecurity.
"Now we have folks who have some college degrees. We have engineers who have lost jobs and has changed their lives. So people are educated, they are trying to make ends meet," said Stress. "They have part-time jobs, they may hold two or three jobs to make ends meet. And they still need food resources from the food pantries and soup kitchens to stretch their food dollars.”
Other statistics show about a third of the Food Bank's clients are children, under the age of 18; ten percent are elderly, up from the last survey; and three-quarters of households take part in the federal SNAP, or food stamps program.
Stress hopes to use these statistics to convince lawmakers to continue supporting food programs like SNAP.
But Stress says SNAP doesn’t adequately cover the cost of food for a household.
“Families who are on SNAP benefits, their benefits only last 2.5 weeks out of the four weeks. So the fact that they are able to access the food pantry as well as food sense or fresh food programs in conjunction with their SNAP benefits stretches their food dollars for the entire whole month,” she said.