Executive Director's Blog
Unemployment--what the numbers don't tell
Monday , September 23, 2013, 6:37 AM
New York City's jobless rate increased in August despite hiring gains. This means people are still having trouble putting food on the table.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 8.8% or about 350,000 city residents are out of work. That's compared to an 8% rate in the state and 7.6% across the country.

The Congressional Budget Office projects that SNAP participation won't begin declining until 2015, and it may take until 2022 for there to be enough full-time jobs for SNAP participation to fall back to pre-recession levels.

Lawmakers, however, are bent on cutting food aid. The Senate recently voted to cut benefits by $4 billion. Then on Thursday, September 19th the House of Representatives voted to cut aid by $40 billion. Congress will now reconcile how deep the cuts go, but suffice to say that things will get even harder for the unemployed before they get better.

The real unemployment rate tells a much tougher story. This number reflects the marginally attached or involuntary part-time workers. These are people who can't find full-time work, or who have stopped looking. Add in those 266,000 people and the unemployment rate in New York City jumps to 15.1%.

The good news is that 3.6 million New Yorkers are employed, and both the unemployment rate and the real unemployment rate continue to drop.

But for those who cannot find full-time work, emergency food assistance continues to be a necessity, and will be for the foreseeable future.

What SNAP cuts mean for us and our Pantry Members
Tuesday , July 2, 2013, 11:49 AM
A major part of what we do at NY Common Pantry is enrolling members in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. SNAP participants include 9 million elderly or seriously disabled people and 22 million children, 10 million of whom live below half of the poverty line. On November 1st, the 2009 Recovery Act's temporary boost to SNAP will expire, reducing benefits for every SNAP recipient. After the extra funds run out, SNAP benefits will average only about $1.30 per person per meal.

This cut sounds small when seen as a yearly decrease of $88 for an individual or $275 for a household of four. But for those relying on SNAP, such amounts signal serious belt-tightening. The current benefit has helped people in about 500,000 U.S. households avoid having to skip meals since 2009. Now by one estimate 400 million meals will have to be skipped just in New York City when the benefit is cut.

Learn more at http://www.lostmeals.org/ or at http://www.foodbanknyc.org/ If you want to take action, both pages offer a link to contact your congressional representatives with a message stating your opposition to SNAP cuts.

Here at the Pantry, we will keep members informed about the upcoming changes so they can prepare themselves, and will continue advocating for an extension of the benefit increase. If Congress does not stop the cuts, we will need to devote valuable resources to managing the influx of SNAP recipients' questions and appeals. The cuts themselves will create more demand, so our Pantry services will be needed more than ever.

For further information on the impact these cuts will have on our most vulnerable citizens, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a great report here. The New York City Coalition Against Hunger also has an eye-opening list of the Top 10 Myths about Food Stamps.
New Year News!
Friday , January 18, 2013, 2:01 AM
Stay active with YCP, because we are doing more in 2013! We offer food and more (benefits and services) serving more individuals (up 15% last year), for Manhattan and more (our impact is city-wide.) And watch here for big changes to come...
A Time to Think about Food
Monday , October 22, 2012, 12:50 PM
During October we observe World Food Day (the 16th) representing the global movement to end hunger.

We also observe the U.S.-focused Food Day (the 24th), "a nationwide celebration and a movement toward more healthy, affordable, and sustainable food," and National School Lunch Week, (the 15th to 19th), focused, as the President's proclamation says, on helping "to ensure more children have access to the healthy, affordable food they need to learn and grow."

During such special days and weeks we join with others to recognize the facts we face every day at Yorkville Common Pantry--too many people are hungry, not enough have access to the healthy food they need, and too many of our children are facing lives that will be burdened with diabetes, obesity, or other food-related health issues.

The action we take to address these issues at YCP is visible in our programs, like our Choice Pantry that encourages families to seek healthy food by giving them a choice in what we provide, or our Nutrition Initiative for Children and Families, that teaches children and adults new ways to prepare and enjoy healthy meals.

As we move out of October and enter the season of Thanksgiving and the other holidays--far and away the time of year when to the most people request our help--watch for news of the upcoming events in those YCP programs.

And be sure to seek out other emergency-food organizations that can be found wherever you live, and are also taking part in October observances and Thanksgiving projects.

It will take the effort of our whole community to address the issues of hunger and poor nutrition, and there are many ways you can get involved.
People who need food stamps...
Friday , August 26, 2011, 7:05 AM
Only those with incomes of 130% of the poverty level or less are eligible for SNAP benefits. The Poverty level is around $15,000 a year for a single person. That means a single person must make no more than approximately $20,000 a year to be eligible. In New York City, that's impossible to live on without help.

The amount each person receives depends on their income, assets and family size, but the average benefit is $133 a month and the maximum for an individual with no income at all is $200. This benefit makes a big difference in bridging the expense/income divide for some people, and without it many would end up hungry and malnourished. No one is getting rich on Food Stamp benefits.

About half of food-stamp recipients are children and 8% are elderly. Only 14% have incomes above the poverty line and 18% have no income at all. Cutting benefits impacts lives- children, parents, seniors surviving on fixed incomes, under-employed people making ends meet and of course, the unemployed.

Less than a tenth of SNAP recipients also receive cash payments from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or what some might call "welfare". Roughly one third get at least some income from wages...but can't make ends meet on their income.

People needing Food Stamps may not be who you think they are.

Excerpts of this blog entry were taken from The Economist, "The Struggle to Eat", July 16th, 2011
SNAP provides effective stimulus
Friday , August 19, 2011, 9:41 AM
Another program currently targeted for massive cutback is SNAP or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, what many people refer to as "Food Stamps" Proposed changes will greatly reduce or even eliminate the ability of programs like SNAP to respond to changes in need as economic changes dictate---expand to serve more people when need is greater and contract when economic circumstances improve.

Yet Food Stamps help stimulate the economy more than other forms of government spending since the recipients are so poor they tend to spend them immediately. Moody's Analytics found that Food Stamps were the most effective form of stimulus, increasing economic activity by $1.73 for every dollar spent. How does that compare to tax cuts or unemployment? Tax cuts yielded about a dollar or less in stimulus. Unemployment came in second, at $1.63.

Food Stamps are the best form of government stimulus, bar none. Why cut something that is so effective and that works to keep people nourished?

Excerpts of this blog entry were taken from The Economist, "The Struggle to Eat" July 16th, 2011
TEFAP cuts impact 1.4 million New Yorkers
Monday , August 8, 2011, 7:47 AM
Now that the deficit ceiling debate is over, the Senate will be focusing its attention on budget appropriations bills. On the table are across-the-board cuts, caps or other measures to amend the federal emergency food program (TEFAP).

The recession has driven the need for emergency food to an all-time high, with 1.4 million New York City residents relying on food pantries and/or soup kitchens. TEFAP is the single largest source of emergency food in New York City. The food TEFAP provides, including fruit, vegetables, whole-grain products, low-fat dairy and lean meat, poultry and fish, is among the healthiest available to emergency food participants. In the last three years Yorkville Common Pantry has received close to $700,000 in food through TEFAP.

The House of Representatives has already passed an agriculture appropriations bill that would put TEFAP on track to provide 10 million fewer meals for New Yorkers in need over the next year. The current negotiations will influence the Senate's version of the budget, which is the next step in the process. Once the Senate's budget is introduced, the two Houses of Congress will then have to work to reach a compromise for a final federal budget agreement. Massive cuts to TEFAP will have a direct impact on YCP and our clients.

I encourage you to write to your congressional delegation and let them know how you feel about this program and what it means to the people we serve.
Just Getting By...
Friday , June 17, 2011, 1:38 AM
What would a person need to earn in order to NOT receive ANY subsidies from public sources? What would it take for one worker with two young children to be economically stable, that is, to make $57,756 or what would it take for a worker with no children to make $30,012 a year?

Working at minimum wage, one would need to make at least double, and in some cases more than three times in benefits or subsidies than they earned working. They would need to apply for, and access, subsidies and supports like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps. If employed during the year, they could receive the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Yet they still would not bridge this gap. If they were lucky, they would be able to get some sort of housing subsidy or live in public housing. If unemployed, they would need unemployment insurance, or if not eligible, public assistance. Even this may not entirely bridge that gap. In effect, the patchwork of programs and credits operate to help people 'make due', but not necessarily to 'make ends meet.' Those ends often remain far apart.

That is not to say that entitlements like SNAP don't make a difference. They surely do. In New York City, from 2008 to 2009, the SNAP caseload grew by 13.2 percent, or more than 100,000 cases from 2008 to 2009, at the height of the recession ("Food Stamps and Tax Aid Kept Poverty Rate in Check", New York Times, March 21, 2011). If one used the Federal Poverty guidelines, 250,000 more New York City residents would have become poor had they not received SNAP and or received tax assistance during the recession. However, since the poverty line is an inadequate indicator of what is required to 'make ends meet' in New York City, these individuals continue to be unable to afford basic necessities.
Manhattan, Kansas
Friday , June 10, 2011, 9:14 AM
Many people who work full time still don't earn enough wages to meet basic needs. Can you believe that? A recent study on economic stability indicated that "many of the jobs being added in retail, hospitality and home health care, to name a few categories, are unlikely to pay enough for workers to cover the cost of fundamentals like housing, utilities, food health care, transportation and, in the case of working parents, child care" (Many Jobs Seen as Failing to Meet the Basics, NY Times, April 1, 2011). At YCP, where we screen every new client in our pantry using a benefits calculator, we find that cashiers, telemarketers, home health aides and home attendants need to supplement their income with other benefits and emergency food, and be connected with free tax help from trained professionals on site, to pay their bills.

Let's drill down on this issue of jobs and wages for a second: A single wage earner working at minimum wage and raising two children earns a little over $15,000 a year, or approximately $3,000 less than the federal poverty level. If you live in NYC you know that the cost of living is so high that the federal poverty level is grossly insufficient at explaining what our earnings need to be. A 2007 Mailman School of Public Health study indicated that in order to afford basic necessities, a New Yorker needs to make 250% of the federal Poverty Level. A recent study, commissioned by Wider Opportunities for Women, reported in the New York Times, took it a step further. They aimed to "set thresholds for economic stability rather than mere survival" and took "into account savings for retirement and emergencies." The findings? A single worker with two young children would need to make $57,756 to be economically stable. Using that same standard, a single worker needs an income of $30,012 a year to cover basic expenses and save for retirement and emergencies. In each case, that is approximately three times the 2010 federal poverty level. Well, we knew we weren't in Kansas...
Would you eat your savings?
Friday , June 3, 2011, 9:00 AM
Those of us involved in emergency food see this every day: poverty impacts regular access to food in general, especially healthy food. Consumption of foods high in saturated fats and sugars leads to what has been referred to as the "Obesity-Hunger Paradox". Low-income neighborhoods, undeserved by grocery stores and the resulting lack of nutritious, affordable fresh food, have residents with higher rates of diet-related illnesses including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. Instead of providing energy and balanced nutrition, food causes spikes in sugar levels, inadequate absorption of vitamins and minerals and weight gain. Poverty makes it very difficult to overcome these factors, unless there is unwavering commitment, high awareness, and lots of supports like food pantries, sufficient income and nutrition education in place to help.

Right now in the New York City, 335,000 people remain unemployed, that's just below a rate of 9%. People that never found themselves in this situation before are still searching for work, and struggling. Others who had previously left the ranks of the unemployment have now cycled back. This has taken its toll on family savings and 'rainy day' savings. The Food Bank for New York City's study indicated that a record 68% of residents with annual incomes below $25,000 would not be able to afford food within three months of losing their household income, up 24% from 2009. People are using, and in many cases have used up, their savings just to eat.

- Stephen Grimaldi