Hunger In Broome County by April Ramsay—Family Enrichment Network

In 2010 on average at least 16,000* Broome County residents received emergency food each month from a food pantry, mobile food pantry site, community meal site or other agency that provides food assistance. 11,458 people on average per month received food from pantries and 4,730 community meals were served per month in 2010.

*(These numbers do not include all the food assistance programs,
as not all sites were available to give statistics. They do cover the majority of food assistance programs). Keeping this in mind the number of people struggling to find enough food to eat in Broome County is staggering
 
Not surprisingly many people in Broome County do not realize the negative impact the downswing in the economy has had on our friends, neighbors, coworkers and people in the larger community. Over the last two years, families large and small have been forced to choose between life necessities; this means that they may have to choose between buying food and paying their rent or mortgage or buying food and paying their utility bills or medical costs. These choices are tough and people facing these decisions generally do not want to share this information with others.  In the past, the number of families suffering from “food insecurity” was much smaller. Food insecurity means that people are not certain that they will have enough food to eat in a day or in a week. Their ability to pay for food has been greatly reduced and they are often forced to rely on local food pantries, mobile food van visits and soup kitchens to get their basic food requirements met.

When a family visits a local soup kitchen/free community meal they are allowed one serving of the meal, if the number of diners is small they may be able to have seconds.  These meals are free and are a wonderful and very valuable service but as the number of people facing food insecurity has increased, the amount of food available has to be stretched to meet this demand. Attending a community meal is not the same as going to the local Chinese buffet. It is hard to imagine, but it is a fact that many families in our community go to bed at night with not enough food in their stomachs to say they feel full.

Within Broome County hunger is definitely on the rise. The Press and Sun Bulletin has reported on the increase in the number of families that turn up for free Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. The local Department of Social Services showed an increase of 1,079 households who were approved for food stamp benefits from January 2010 to November 2010. This increase in households consisted of 1,615 individuals. (In January 2010, 14,020 households made up of 27,110  individuals applied for food stamp benefits and in November 2010, 15,099 households of 28,725 individuals applied).

In January 2009: 11,721 households (22,916 individuals) were approved for food stamp benefits. In January 2010: 13,602 households (26,502 individuals) were approved for food stamp benefits. This is an increase of 1,881 households comprising of 3,586 individuals in just one year.
 

In a healthy economy the number of individuals faced with hunger issues should be decreasing. It is important to keep in mind that not every family that struggles with hunger is eligible for food stamp benefits and in turn must rely on food pantry visits to keep food in their cupboards.

In December 2009, 7,600 households (21,122 individuals) sought help from the mobile food pantry, a van that visits locations in communities both rural and urban across Broome County. In December 2010 the numbers increased to 10,158 households (25,364 individuals). Again in just one year there was an increase of 2,558 households comprising of 4,242 individuals who needed help to keep food on the table. 

 In July 2010, 1,320 families sought food supplies from the busiest food pantry in Broome County, Catholic Charities located on Main St. Binghamton. These families were made up of 3,974 individuals of which 39% were children aged 0-19 years old.  Seniors 65 years and older accounted for 173 individuals. Children and seniors are particularly vulnerable to the negative side effects of not having enough food. Healthy child development relies on the child having nutritious, regular meals. Brain development, the ability to learn and to be successful at school is based on a child’s nutritional needs being met and because of this children in our community should never have to deal with food insecurity. Seniors require regular nutritious meals to keep healthy and fight off infections and illness. Food insecurity only contributes to failing health for seniors.

With the looming cuts in the State budget and the economy still in decline we can only assume that food insecurity will continue to increase in Broome County.
 
 * In Broome County there are 15 community pantries, 25 community meal locations and mobile food pantry sites. Numbers were counted from the mobile food pantry, 9 community pantries and 12 community meal sites. Just one half of all the locations.

Numbers reported on in the article were from the:
    * Food Bank of the Southern Tier which operates the Mobile Food Pantry/ Van
    * Office of Temporary Disability Assistance web site
    * Calls to local community pantries and meal locations

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