Thursday, May 01, 2008

Stamping Out Hunger

As we have been saying, the rising price of food has really begun to take a toll on low income New Yorkers. In particular, food stamp recipients are feeling the pinch. As the NY Daily News reports this morning, "Rocketing food prices are slimming down the Eric Gioia poverty diet.
The Democratic city councilman from Queens struggled to survive last year when he spent a week living on $28 - the average food stamp allowance for a single recipient. This year, the same allowance would leave him starving."

Clearly, more needs to be done and help may be on the way. In Washington a new farm bill is seeking to address the food stamp allocation, and hopefully the benefit levels will be raised to meet the new economic challenge of grocery sticker shock. Councilman Gioia told the News: "Last year, I lasted five days and I was out of food," he said. "I had to go to a food pantry to get through the week. "This year, I'd last three days." With last year's budget, Gioia loaded up on pasta, tuna, ramen noodles, white bread and a handful of vegetables. This week, he shopped for the same groceries. The bill was more than $6 higher - a 25% price increase."

And the food stamp recipient is not alone of course. All New Yorkers are feeling the pinch, a pinch that is exacerbated by the loss of local supermarkets; with six East Harlem markets shutting down in the past few years. So the grocery price rise and the loss of supermarkets are a tandem issue, and addressing one means we need to also address the other at the same time.

As we've said elsewhere, the supermarket crisis couldn’t have come at a worse time. As grocery prices rise not only in this city, but all over the world, the loss of our larger local food markets puts an additional strain on strapped consumers. When the neighborhood supermarket, faced with a rising rent that it can’t afford, gives way to a bank or a chain drug store, the community is forced to shop at higher priced bodegas and delis.

We're looking forward to a joint rally and press conference with the food advocates on May 28th; and we're really looking forward to belling the Vornado cat for its unconscionable decision to evict a South Bronx supermarket from its home of over two decades.