As Albor Ruiz is reporting, the city is experiencing a real hunger crisis: "Soon, if things keep going in the same direction, only the really rich will be able to live in New York City. For the rest of us, it may be wise to start considering other options. "C'mon, this guy is an alarmist," you may be thinking. But when it is no longer only the poorest among us who cannot afford food but also middle-income families, the time has come to, well, be alarmed."
Everything's going up, and all New Yorkers are feeling it. As one immigrant worker tells us: "The landlord raises the rent, the gas company raises the cost of gas, the supermarkets raise the price of food, the MTA raises the subway fare. ..." Durán said." All of which makes the disappearance of the local supermarket that much more compelling. The bodega and drug store are expensive alternatives that most folks with low incomes or fixed budgets can't afford.
The reality is that the local supermarket also can't afford the city either. Our friends at the Food Bank are charting this crisis: "And low-income workers are no longer the only ones struggling, as made clear by NYC Hunger Experience 2008, the fifth in a series of Food Bank of New York-commissioned reports tracking the difficulty city residents have affording needed food. The report was released last week at City Hall. "While the hardest hit are our city's poorest and most vulnerable, record numbers of middle-income families are joining the ranks of New Yorkers who are having difficulty affording needed food," said Lucy Cabrera, president and CEO of the Food Bank."
Middle class New Yorkers are feeling the squeeze: "Those middle-class New Yorkers making $50,000 to $74,000 - many of them highly educated - are supposed to be, if not well off, at least not in major financial straits either. Yet they were among the hardest hit. In that group, 27% said it was difficult to afford food - a dramatic jump from 14% in 2003. Those middle-class New Yorkers making $50,000 to $74,000 - many of them highly educated - are supposed to be, if not well off, at least not in major financial straits either. Yet they were among the hardest hit. In that group, 27% said it was difficult to afford food - a dramatic jump from 14% in 2003."
One solution is greater access to the Food Stamp program, something that Speaker Quinn, to her credit, is spearheading. Our good friend Triada Stampas of the Food Bank makes the point here: ""The city needs to do greater outreach at the local level for more people to enroll in the Food Stamps program," Stampas said. "Right now, there are about 500,000 New Yorkers eligible but not enrolled."
As the Daily News reports today tens of thousands of Bronxites are eligible for food stamps but aren't getting them: "Thousands of Bronxites may be eligible for food stamps without even knowing it, says a new citywide study..."This is something that impacts a tremendous number of New Yorkers and Bronxites," City Council Majority Leader Joel Rivera said at a news conference Tuesday at Part of the Solution, a soup kitchen and food pantry in Bedford Park. The study found that more than 635,000 New Yorkers may qualify for food stamps, with nearly 120,000 living in neighborhoods such as Williamsbridge, Morrisania and Highbridge."
So let's get cracking. More food stamps and more supermarkets for New Yorkers. City Planning's on the case, now we need the economic development people to get energized, and stop fixating on things like green roofs. Access to healthy and affordable food should be the city's highest priority.