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Report: Bronx most food-deprived

Bronx Times

There’s not enough food to feed the borough’s growing number of hungry people.

That’s the findings of a new report by the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, an advocacy group determined to solve the city’s hunger issue.

The Bronx, with a population of 1.4 million, stands at the epicenter of the issue, according to the report, with roughly 533,000 hungry Bronxites, half of them children.

“The fact that half of the borough’s hungry are children should be a national scandal,” charged Joel Berg, NYCCAH’s executive director.

He announced the study findings at Part of the Solution, the borough’s largest food pantry. Blocks away from Fordham University, the Bedford Park community kitchen has been serving meals to the poor for the past 30 years.

The borough’s destitute rely on food pantries like POTS, where nearly 620,000 meals will be served this year, according to its executive director, Chris Bean.

“We’re serving more individuals in 2012 than at any point in its 30-year history,” said Bean.

His nonprofit was given a $50,000 donation check by former MLB ball player turned philanthropist Rusty Staub.

Recently adding to the hunger issue is Superstorm Sandy, which impacted low-income families who couldn’t go to work since subways were shut down. Without benefits like sick time, the working poor were out of a day’s pay.

“People don’t have work, they don’t have food, they have to come to agencies like this,” said Berg.

With numbers of people out of work for several days because of the storm, Bean noticed a 20% rise in demand following Superstorm Sandy, despite the borough having less damage than other areas of the city.

“The storm ripped away the wall paper that was covering the misery, day in and day out,” Berg said.

About 32% of those surveyed in the study said they were impacted by the storm, with some experiencing a lag or overall cancellation of food deliveries to their agencies.

Like POTS, about 80% of the borough’s 250 pantries and soup kitchens don’t have enough money to meet the demands of their food-deprived clients.

In West Farms, the day-to-day operations at Christ Jesus Baptist Church Food Pantry have stretched thin, said group manager Odell White.

“We have to turn people away for lack of food to distribute,” White said. “We need more resources.”

The problem, according to Berg, is a lack of resources from all corners. Government cutbacks have put pantries up against the wall, mainly since food stamp programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are in danger of further cutbacks.

A bill has made its way through the Congressional channels that seeks to cut billions from the program.

Berg has been calling on local elected leaders to block any measure that would further cut SNAP benefits.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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