Food insecurity (sometimes called “food hardship”) is the lack of access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all members of a household. ood-insecure families may worry that money for food will run out each month. They may eat less than they should or be unable to afford balanced meals. Prior to COVID, 15% of New York City residents were food insecure. That number has risen to 25%. 1 in 4 NYC children are experiencing food insecurity right now.
Who does it impact the most?
Low-income communities, which are disproportionately Black, Latinx, and communities of color, have higher rates of food insecurity, and have been hit hardest by the pandemic.
A recent survey from The Poverty Tracker showed that Black and Latinx New Yorkers were 3x as likely to have experienced food insecurity than white New Yorkers.
Immigrants are often excluded from government benefits like unemployment and food stamps, even including immigrants who paid into those programs by paying taxes.
What causes food insecurity in Astoria?
Our area is also home to many workers in the taxi and rideshare industry, the performing arts, the restaurant/hospitality industry, as well as many immigrants - all of which have been massively impacted by the pandemic.
The rising cost of rent in Astoria means people had less money for other essentials like food. Even before the pandemic, 1/4 of Astorians spent half their income on rent.
Federal Government Response
The CARES Act increased unemployment benefits and expanded eligibility. However, rates of food insecurity increased dramatically when the additional payments expired in August 2020. The USDA created a program to send food from American farmers to food pantries, but some but some found it to be unreliable, with long breaks in supply and unexpected changes to distribution.
City Government Response
The New York City government created a program of free food distribution through pick ups at public schools and delivery for people who are unable to leave the home. This program is open to anyone regardless of status, and without complicated forms for means testing. But it only provides pre-made meals with no option to get groceries, which is not everyone’s preference, especially for families.
FYI - this program is still going on! If you are facing food insecurity, you can go to certain schools or sign up to receive meals delivered to you by calling 311 or searching online for Get Food NYC.
With the rapid rise in food insecurity, food pantries stepped in to fill in the gaps. The percentage of people using food pantries has more than doubled during the pandemic, disproportionate to other means of public food assistance (SNAP, GetFoodNYC, Grab n’ Go meals, and P-EBT). Even among those that receive public food assistance, food pantry usage has doubled. This suggests that food insecurity is not only more common now, but more severe. While the government’s public food assistance programs alleviated some of the economic fallout of the pandemic, community-organized efforts like mutual aid, food pantries, and community fridges are doing vital work to fill in some very large gaps in food assistance. This work is rooted in dignity for all people. The belief that everyone has the right to ample, healthy, nourishing food for themselves and their family, regardless of income. And if we work together as a community to share resources, we can provide for ourselves and each other.
Though exacerbated by the pandemic, food insecurity has always been prevalent in NYC. It is imperative that we work together as a community to keep ourselves and our neighbors healthy and fed. Donate your time, food, or money to AMAN or one of our partner orgs in food assistance:
If you’re donating food, be sure to review an organization’s guidelines first to ensure that it can be accepted/redistributed. As ever, don’t donate anything that you wouldn’t consider eating yourself.