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Shocking Number Of Manhattan Kids Go Hungry, Study Finds

Patch logo Patch 4/20/2019 Adam Nichols
a group of people standing in a parking lot © Provided by Planck, LLC, d/b/a Patch Media

NEW YORK, NY – More than 39,000 children in Manhattan are considered suffering from hunger, the type of gnawing need for food that leaves them lightheaded and lethargic and has significant impact on their daily lives, a study by the charity Feeding America found.

Across the whole state, 750,000 kids do not get enough food. It's estimated $1,242,696,000 would need to be spent to make sure all kids in New York get enough to eat – of that, $211,010,000 is needed in Manhattan.


You can help these hungry children. At the bottom of this story, find local food banks and other ways to make sure these children have enough nutritious food.


“In households across the country, parents often work to shield their children from the fact there isn’t enough food,” said Christina Martinez, the child-nutrition manager for Feeding America, which provides food through a nationwide network of food banks. “But kids are really perceptive, and really do pick up on it.”

“We can see it in their eyes, wondering, ‘What am I going to eat? When am I going to eat?’ They have that fearful look.”

Stereotypes abound about these hungry children. Some are homeless, but most of them aren’t, said Martinez. “In the majority of cases, they’re going home with their brothers and sisters," she said.

And in many cases, these hungry kids are the children of working parents.

While 13 million U.S. children are considered food insecure, even more families are “a $500 car repair or a broken arm away from food insecurity,” said Erica Olmstead, a field manager for No Kid Hungry, a project of Share Our Strength, a nonprofit group that works to ease hunger and poverty worldwide.

In a 2017 report, nearly two-thirds of low-income parents said a single, unplanned expense of $1,500 would make it difficult for them to feed their children. Among respondents, 92 percent were working families — that is, at least one adult in the household worked full-time, part-time or multiple jobs. Among other findings:

  • 62 percent worried that food would run out faster than money to pay for it came in.
  • 59 percent said the food they bought didn’t last and there wasn’t money for more.
  • 23 percent said they had limited the size of a child’s meal because there wasn’t enough money for food.

“Honestly,” Olmstead said, “that’s unacceptable.”

The problem isn’t just that these nearly 13 million American kids are hungry.

Published research shows that children in families who don’t know where their next meal is coming from are more likely than kids who have enough nutritious food to eat to have lower test scores and overall academic achievement. Hungry kids are more likely to skip school, have to repeat a grade or not finish school at all, limiting their chances of getting a good job. They’re also more likely to suffer chronic health conditions such as anemia and asthma, require hospitalization and suffer oral health problems.

Hungry kids also are prone to fighting, hyperactivity, aggression, anxiety, mood swings and bullying.

“‘Hangry’ is a real thing. Kids who are food insecure and hungry are more likely to act out, be discipline problems and find it harder to concentrate when a basic need isn’t being met,” said Annelise Cohon, who leads the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom program for the NEA Foundation, the National Education Association’s public charity.

“The impact of hunger can be felt throughout the life cycle for a student.”

It isn’t that there’s not enough food to go around, but rather a matter of getting nutritious food in the right places.

When it isn’t, teachers and other educators often spend their own money — on average, about $30 a week — to make sure kids have enough to eat, according to a survey by No Kid Hungry, an initiative of Share Our Strength, a nonprofit working to ease hunger and poverty worldwide.

Childhood hunger is “a completely solvable and fixable problem,” said Feeding America’s Martinez. “We don’t have to live with this.”

The easiest way to help is to donate to local food banks. In New York City there's the Food Bank for New York City in The Bronx and City Harvest on East 32nd Street in Manhattan.

Help can be offered in a variety of ways — by giving money or donating time to sort food and snack packs, assemble food boxes or help with distribution. People who work in the food industry can also work with their employers to provide direct donations.

Also, Martinez said, start a conversation in your community to determine if enough resources are being allocated to combat childhood hunger. “If you give food banks resources, they will expand the program,” she said.

Another great way to help is to start a school backpack program in your local school district. Here’s how.

Reported and written by Beth Dalbey, Patch national staff


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