New York City Foodbanks Still Recovering From Superstorm Sandy

Foodbanks and pantries in New York City have yet to recover from the effects of Superstorm Sandy, which depleted the resources of a system already struggling to provide food to the needy, the Wall Street Journal reports.

One of the largest hunger-relief organizations in the region, the Food Bank for New York City, was forced to rely on state and city reserves to supplement its own resources after the storm hit. And while a recent agreement with the American Red Cross will help the organization finance deliveries to especially hard-hit areas, Food Bank NYC president and CEO Margarette Purvis told the Journal that the organization came into the year with very little food on hand. "We could not have afforded to do what we did without the City of New York, without the state, and without the federal government," said Purvis. "We would've spent all the money we raised in a couple of weeks."

Indeed, the city's foodbanks and soup kitchen were under pressure well before Sandy hit. According to a report (8 pages, PDF) issued by Food Bank NYC based on a survey conducted before the storm by the Institute for Public Opinion at Marist College, 32 percent of New Yorkers, some 2.6 million people, reported having difficulty affording food — a lower percentage than at the height of the recession in 2008 (48 percent) but higher than in 2003 (25 percent). The report also found that a significant number of city residents said they went without food at some point over the past twelve months so they could pay their rent (17 percent), utilities (16 percent), transportation (14 percent), or medicine or medical care (13 percent).

Sandy only made matters worse. The Yorkville Common Pantry saw the number of its Saturday drop-ins increase from four hundred to about six hundred and fifty after the storm, said program director Daniel Reyes, while Melony Samuels, executive director of the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger, said her organization served twenty-one thousand people in a single month, ten thousand more than usual.

Meanwhile, Food Bank NYC is paying close attention to the debt debate in Washington, hoping that cuts in public assistance programs such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) can be averted, the Journal reports. "The thing that's making us the most nervous is the idea that WIC could be cut," said Purvis. "WIC is one of those programs that keeps people off our line."

Jackie Bischof. "City Food Banks Still Recovering From Sandy." Wall Street Journal 01/15/2013.