A new study by the D.C.-based Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) underscores the severe food hardship faced by Americans in this brutal economic climate. FRAC’s report compiles for the first time ever food hardship data in every one of the nation’s congressional districts and top 100 metropolitan areas.
In my home city of New York, the numbers are dismal. People in seven of the 13 congressional districts here faced severe food hardship in 2008-09. The 16th Congressional District in the South Bronx, where more than one in three residents could not afford enough food, had the highest rate of food hardship in the nation, and the 10th Congressional District in Central Brooklyn, where 30.8 percent faced food hardship, had sixth highest rate out of all the country’s 436 congressional districts. Considering that the city still has 56 billionaires, this is an appalling turn of events, which provides the latest wake-up call that all levels of government need to take immediate action to reverse the city’s growing hunger poverty, and inequality of wealth.
While key parts of the city face a particularly severe problem, I believe the most notable news from this data is just how widespread food hardship is in all corners of the city and nation. Even in the relatively least hungry congressional district in the city – Rep. Anthony Weiner’s district that has been traditionally thought of as a bedrock middle-class of neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens – more than one in 12 residents couldn’t afford enough food, a level likely higher than in the majority of industrialized Western nations of the world. Because America’s wages are now so low and our safety net so gutted, even the parts of New York City suffering the least are still in worse shape than most people in our competitor nations.
In the New York metropolitan region, including suburban Connecticut and New Jersey, 21.6 percent of households with children faced food hardship. The problem is so widespread that, even when you factor in some truly wealthy areas in Manhattan, Westchester, Long Island, and suburban Connecticut and New Jersey, more than one in five people in the metropolitan area couldn’t afford enough food. Statewide in New York, 17.4 percent of all state residents faced food hardship.
The new report only underscores the need for a Good Food, Good Jobs program that I proposed here in December. Low-income areas across America that lack access to nutritious foods at affordable prices — the so-called “food deserts” — tend to be the same communities and neighborhoods that, even in better economic times, are also “job deserts” that lack sufficient living-wage employment. A “Good Food, Good Jobs” initiative would be a good way to tackle our interrelated hunger, malnutrition, obesity, and poverty problems.