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New York Common Pantry illustrates need illuminated in Poverty Tracker report

Food Bank of America: 1 in 6 children face hunger in New York
Food Bank of America: 1 in 6 children face hunger in New York 02:44

NEW YORK -- This year's Poverty Tracker released by Columbia University and the Robin Hood nonprofit shows a 10% overall increase in hunger.

This Season of Giving, CBS New York has partnered with the New York Common Pantry to combat food insecurity in our community. Executive Director Stephen Grimaldi welcomed researchers to the East Harlem headquarters to announce the report findings.

"Our mission at New York Common Pantry is to reduce hunger and promote dignity, health and self-sufficiency," Grimaldi said. "And whether we call this pervasive problem food hardship or food insecurity, the bottom line is that people throughout the city are struggling."

The pantry plans to distribute more than 8,000 turkeys over the next week. Holiday cheer will welcome 50% more people for their Thanksgiving feast than last year.

Since 2012, Columbia and Robin Hood have tracked trends through surveys and statistics. They found food insecurity affects half of the city's families with children and a third of adults. This year, the team focused on the compounding impacts beyond hunger, like health and wealth.

"We found over half of New Yorkers we surveyed lost income or lost work because of the pandemic, but there was also a really historic policy response," noted Chris Wimer, co-director of Columbia's Center on Poverty and Social Policy.

The temporary government assistance led to the lowest child poverty levels on record, but as the incentives expired, that quickly reversed. Robin Hood CEO Rich Buery pointed out the Farm Bill that authorizes SNAP and WIC benefits just ran out in September, as Congress continues to clash.

"Please contact your Congressmen, contact your Senators to address how important it is that we prioritize food support in the budget," Buery urged.

Robin Hood has sent $17 million to New York Common Pantry over the years to supplement their services. One successful pandemic policy shift still in place at the pantry now allows clients to preorder their items online.

"You stood on line for so long, then you went downstairs and sat for so long, and then you came upstairs and got your food, and maybe you got what you ordered and maybe you didn't," remembered longtime client Melody Walter. "Now, it's quick in and out."

The pantry will distribute 400 turkeys at its East Harlem location each day for clients who have already registered.

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