Study: Rome-Utica area has highest food insecurity level

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NEW YORK — According to a new study by the nonprofit group Hunger Free America, the Utica-Rome region had the state’s highest level of food insecurity in 2018-2020 at 19.4%, followed by the Syracuse region at 14.5%, and the Albany-Schenectady-Troy region at 14.3%.

The massive influx in federal spending on food and cash for low-income Americans since the start of the pandemic has softened the blow of the hunger crisis in the city, state, and metropolitan region, according to the study by Hunger Free America, which was based mostly on an analysis of federal data.

The number of people who “didn’t have enough to eat” in New York soared to 6.158 million in April of 2020, but dropped to about 2.715 million by September of 2021, according to U.S. Census Household Pulse data analyzed by the report.

The 56% drop in food insufficiency in New York State coincided with a massive boost in federal food and cash aid. From May 2020 to August 2021, federal spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – which was called the Food Stamp Program before 2009 – alone nearly doubled, from $362 million to $693 million, monthly.

Between 2018-2020, 14% of the New York City’s population – equaling 1.164 million people –suffered from food insecurity, unable to afford a sufficient supply of food, including 19% of all children, 9% of all employed adults, and 11% of all older New Yorkers.

Between 2018-2020, 11.3% of the New York State’s population – equaling 2.179 million people – suffered from food insecurity,including 16% of all children, 7.9% of all employed adults,and 7.2% of all older residents. That overall number of people food insecure represented an increase over the 2013-2015 period, when 11.1% of the New York State’s population – equaling 2.166 million people – were food insecure.

The report includes detailed public policy recommendations at the federal, state, and city levels, including continued expansion of the government’s pandemic social safety net to deal with continued food insecurity as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to linger.

The full report, “Surging Pandemic Hunger Stemmed by Government Safety Net Boost,” is available on Hunger Free America’s website: www.hungerfreeamerica.org

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