Some of the hungriest neighborhoods in the country are in New York City – and their hunger pangs could be getting worse.
The South Bronx tops the nation, with nearly one in three regularly unable to afford a meal, according to a new study that also documents hunger woes in Brooklyn and Queens.
The study from the Food Research and Action Center ranked the hungriest areas by congressional district. It found that 32.7% of people surveyed in the South Bronx couldn’t afford a meal in the prior year.
Central Brooklyn was sixth in the country at 29.7%, and an interborough swath that includes Co-op City in the Bronx and parts of western Queens placed third at 23.8%. Advocates said they hope the report calls attention to the city’s growing hunger problem.
“It’s just crazy. I’ve never seen it this bad before,” said Tom Neve, executive director of Reaching Out Community Services, a Bensonhurst group.
Joel Berg of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger said the study “provides the latest wakeup call that all levels of government need to take immediate action to reverse the city’s growing hunger.”
Gov. Cuomo’s proposed budget cuts could lead to the closing of 105 senior centers in the city – adding to local hunger, advocates said.
Researchers tallied the data after interviewing more than 530,000 residents between January 2009 and December 2010. They asked about times in the past year when residents of their households could not afford food.
Locals blamed the hunger woes on a rise in unemployment, especially among undocumented immigrants.
“There’s just no jobs out there,” said Sister Mary Alice Hannon, a nun who runs Part of the Solution, which helps the homeless in the Bronx.
Asked if she sees an end in sight, Hannan replied, “Please God, eventually.”
Experts noted that identifying the hungriest places by congressional district lumps together the poorest and richest areas.
That means poorer neighborhoods like the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City may not be as high on the list as advocates think they should be.
At a food pantry run by the East River Development Alliance near Queensbridge, locals said conditions are getting worse.
“For weeks my stomach has been hurting and hurting because of my hunger,” said Eleusa Wong, 53, of Astoria. “The situation is a nightmare.”
Floyd Witherspoon, 63, of Long Island City, appealed to other hungry residents to use the pantries and show they’re needed.
“Hunger might be one of Queens’ biggest enemies,” he said. “If people don’t take advantage of more of these programs, they’re going to be cut.”
BY Ramiro Funez AND Nicholas Hirshon