By JAMES FANELLI
Advocates for the city's poor held a press conference at POTS (Part Of The Solution), a community dining facility in the Bronx, on the eve of Thanksgiving to spotlight the rising demand on soup kitchens and food pantry services. The event, which Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion also attended, showcased findings from a new survey by the Coalition Against Hunger, a non-profit organization that represents more than 1000 agencies serving the poor.
The annual survey, which measures the hunger problems in New York City, stated that job loss from Sept. 11 and the recent recession has caused an increase in the number of people seeking food. The survey reports that New York City's soup kitchens and food pantries fed 45 percent more people in 2002 than in 2000. Also, the increase in demand burdened many of the food-providing agencies, which could not fulfill all requests because they received only nominal increases in food, money and staff this past year. Estimates are that agencies turned away 349,776 hungry New Yorkers, of whom 19,432 were children, because they did not have the resources to feed them.
At POTS, Joel Berg, executive director of the Coalition Against Hunger, drew attention to the discrepancy between his agency's survey and recent city findings that reported a decrease in demand for soup kitchens and food pantries. "Who are you going to believe, the city officials or the people who actually work in the soup kitchens each day?" Berg asked rhetorically. He also noted that the Bloomberg administration's efforts to ease the pain of the recession have had only a marginal effect. "Under Bloomberg, food stamps are up 5 percent, but unemployment is up by 11 percent," Berg said. "This is a minimal increase."
Sister Mary Alice Hannan, director of POTS, spoke about the rising demand on her own agency. "Our numbers have skyrocketed from serving 175 people each day five years ago to 600 people just yesterday," she said.
Her comments spotlights a growing hunger problem in the Bronx that experts say is very real. According to the Coalition's survey, the demand on soup kitchens and food pantries in the borough has increased by 84 percent in the last year. POTS, which is located at 2673 Webster Ave., is one of 195 agencies in the borough trying to feed the area's hungry.
Michael Landert, a regular recipient of POTS meals and full-time volunteer in their facility, explained the importance of POTS and other agencies like it. "It helps everybody, from those with no jobs to those with jobs," he said. "Everybody can come here and eat."
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