The number of city residents who have difficulty affording food has doubled in the past five years, according to survey released Tuesday by the Food Bank for New York City.
Roughly four million New Yorkers—one in two—have trouble paying for groceries, the survey found. That’s a 26 percent spike since the last survey was conducted in February.
The survey also found that more than half of the households with children have trouble feeding their kids; nearly half of seniors said they couldn’t afford groceries; and that almost one in four New Yorkers would need to seek immediate food assistance following a sudden loss in household income.
“The results of this report are devastating,” Lucy Cabrera, the food bank’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “These numbers should be a wake-up call for all New Yorkers.”
The survey, conducted by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion over a three-day period in November, provides a snapshot of food security in the city following the recent credit crunch. More than 900 English- and Spanish-speaking New Yorkers were interviewed for the survey by phone.
The results show the largest increase in food assistance need since the Food Bank started the poll in 2003. The middle class has not been spared by the downturn. While the number of low-income households making under $25,000 a year climbed by half since 2003 to 73 percent, the number of middle-income households in the $50,000-to-$75,000 range needing assistance more than tripled, from 14 percent to 43 percent.
Moreover, 56 percent of households with children and 47 percent of seniors over the age of 65 reported difficulty affording food. Over the past five years, overall food prices in the city have risen about 25 percent.
The survey also revealed that Manhattan is the borough with the most food security, and the Bronx with the least. Only 34 percent of Manhattan residents said they needed assistance, while 55 percent of Bronx residents said they did.
Already, 1.3 million New Yorkers rely on some sort of food assistance, such food stamps, a food pantry or soup kitchen. The Food Bank for New York City distributes food to a network of 1,000-odd pantries and soup kitchens.