A new report published by Feeding America, the national hunger relief organization representing 194 food banks across the country describes a 27.2% increase in the estimated number of Long Island children experiencing food insecurity. The report entitled, Map the Meal Gap 2016: Child Food Insecurity in New York by County in 2014 reports 40,360 children in Nassau and 48,670 in Suffolk face food insecurity by not having access to nutritious food on a daily basis. According to the findings of the report, approximately 51% of children in Nassau and 48% of children in Suffolk experiencing food insecurity are likely not income eligible for federal nutrition assistance programs, and as a result, they are at-risk for certain illnesses associated with hunger and child development.
Feeding America provides information about hunger at the local level through the Map the Meal Gap data that can help policymakers and service providers identify strategies to best reach those in need of assistance, according to the national hunger relief organization based in Chicago. One local service provider is Long Island Cares, Inc., The Harry Chapin Food Bank who recently reviewed the data for the Long Island Region and has applied the findings as part of their advocacy and social policy positions, as well as implementing new direct services aimed towards children experiencing high food insecurity.
Paule Pachter, Chief Executive Officer of the regional food bank said, “We’re not surprised by the increase in the number of children reported to be food insecure on Long Island. The Map the Meal Gap data describes a total of 89,030 children struggling with food insecurity throughout our region and it represents an increase of 19,030 from the 70,000 children that were reported in Feeding America’s Hunger in America Study in 2013. Based upon the number of children Long Island Cares directly serves we always believed that 70,000 was too low. On average, we assist 560 children monthly in our own pantries and have assisted 3,500 children through our Mobile School Pantry at only one district since the start of the 2016 academic year. Our Kids Cafés and Backpack Program alone support 1,200 children each month.”
Pachter went on to say, “This is a significant health problem in America which relates to economics. If you’re a child in a family living above the poverty level and you struggle to earn a living wage on Long Island which clearly needs to be higher than $15.00 an hour, you’re forced to make decisions and prioritize how you spend your money; rent –vs food; healthcare –vs food; transportation or food. Our education system has taken a proactive approach towards addressing the nutrition needs of their students through the school meals program and by partnering with organizations such as Long Island Cares, but until the playing field is leveled and people can earn enough to live on Long Island which is estimated at an average of $95,000 for a family of four, there will always be children facing hunger.”
For more information about Long Island Cares’ programs for children visit www.licares.org or call 631.582.FOOD.