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More College-Educated New Yorkers Struggling to Afford Food, Study Says

By Jill Colvin | January 11, 2012 9:06pm
Several soup kitchens and food pantries had to shut down temporarily over the summer because of shortages.
Several soup kitchens and food pantries had to shut down temporarily over the summer because of shortages.
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Food Bank For New York

MIDTOWN — More and more New Yorkers, including many with college degrees, are having trouble affording food, a new study shows.

The Food Bank for New York City’s annual "NYC Hunger Experience 2011” finds a “startling” 25 percent spike in the number of people with college degrees reporting difficulty affording food from 2010 to 2011.

Overall, the survey found that nearly 3 million city residents — or about one in three — have had difficulty paying for food they need.  

“The fact that education is no longer a buffer against poverty and hunger is antithetical to conventional wisdom and a blow to everything we’ve ever been told,” Margarette Purvis, president and CEO of the Food Bank For New York City said about the report, which provides an annual snapshot of hunger in the city.

In Manhattan, the study found that 30 percent of residents are having difficulty affording food, up 15 percent from 2010 and 36 percent since 2003.

Almost one in three said that they bought less food to save cash, and many bought less healthy food to stretch their dollars, including fewer fruits and vegetables, less milk and less meat.

Nearly a quarter turned to friends and families, eating at their homes instead of their own.

The study also found that more middle-income New Yorkers, who aren’t eligible for food stamps, are having trouble affording meals, including those making between $50,000 and $74,999 and those making more than $75,000 a year.

More middle class residents also expressed concern about needing  to turn to food stamps, or emergency food like soup kitchen or food pantries, over the next year.

“Now that we’re seeing middle income earners joining the ranks of those struggling to put food on the table, imagine what it’s like for lower income families who are already enduring the brunt of the economic downturn,” Purvis said.

“The fight against hunger is far from over.”

But there was also some good news. The percentage of lower-income New Yorkers reporting difficulty affording food has dropped significantly since 2008, the height of the recession, from 48 to 40 percent.

But that’s still up from, 2003, when only a quarter of low-income New Yorkers reported problems putting food on the table, significantly fewer than today.