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Press Event Recapping Food Stamp Challenge and Recent NYC Poverty Data

New Federal Data: NYC Poverty and Inequality Soar, Average Family Income

Despite the skyrocketing wealth of the city’s 57 billionaires, the median income of families in New York City declined and the number of people in poverty soared, according to federal data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

All of New York City has a higher inequality of wealth than Burkina Faso or India. In Manhattan, which has the greatest income disparity citywide, the index is higher than Haiti or Brazil.

The number of city residents living below the federal poverty line ($17,600 for a family of three) increased from 1,500,484 to 1,546,046 from 2008 to 2009, with the rate increasing from 18.2 percent to 18.7 percent. Every borough except Manhattan reported an increase in people living below poverty. The median household income dropped citywide from $51,116 in 2008 to $50,033 in 2009. Yet the latest number of billionaires based in New York City increased from to 56 to 57 and their collective net worth increased by $19 billion (from $183.5 billion to $202.65 billion in 2009 to 2010), according to data recently released by Forbes magazine and analyzed by the New York City Coalition Against Hunger.

Said Joel Berg, Executive Director of the Coalition, “This data is the latest proof that low-income, hungry, and even middle-class New Yorkers are suffering mightily in this recession, even as the ultra-rich become even wealthier. We should all be appalled that New York is now the epicenter of the nation’s soaring inequality of wealth. The only silver lining in all this horrible news is that that federal recovery act prevented far more New Yorkers from falling into poverty.”

A week ago the New York City Coalition Against Hunger challenged New Yorkers to join Council Member Rodriguez in living on the average food stamps for a week as part of the Food Stamp Challenge. Participants spent $4.35/day on food for the first three days of the challenge, and then spent $3.75/day on food to reflect the proposed budget cuts to the food stamp program. Currently, 1.76 million New Yorkers rely on SNAP/food stamp benefits.

Despite the fact that so many are struggling to make ends meet, in August Congress cut $11.9 billion from the SNAP/food stamp program in order to pay for the Federal Aviation Administration Bill, which includes aid to states and funding for teachers’ salaries and Medicaid. In the coming weeks, Congress will decide whether to make an additional $2.2 billion in cuts to the SNAP/food stamp program in order to pay for Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR), which determines funding and access to child nutrition programs.

One participant noted, “At first I thought that the difference between the two daily allowances of $4.33 and $3.75 wasn’t that much—but 58 cents per day can buy two oranges and now I feel like that is huge. I’m having a difficult time planning what we can eat that is healthy and in our budget on Thursday and Friday.”

Said Council Member Rodriguez, “I do not need to repeat what we already know – that it is impossible to still eat a healthy balanced diet off $4.33 per day, the amount a low-income individual might receive off food stamps. Ironically, Congress is considering paying for child nutrition programs by cutting the already insufficient amount of funds for food stamps – a move that will make children less healthy! At a time when poverty rates are soaring, and more and more Americans are relying on food stamps to survive, we cannot afford to cut this program or any of the other lifelines for families in need.”

Commented Congressmen Anthony Weiner, “We have a moral obligation to provide for the millions of New Yorkers who go hungry every year. Unfortunately, food stamp recipients have a tough enough time subsisting on the current allotment. The fact that further cuts are even on the table is shameful."

Additional coverage of this event about the food stamp challenge and poverty data:

NY Daily News (first article)

NY Daily News (second article)

European Press (Spanish)

Washington Independent

Epoch Times

New York Times