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Numbers At Soup Kitchens, Food Pantries Rise Before Thanksgiving

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Since Hurricane Sandy hit, many people are depending on soup kitchens and food pantries for a meal, and now with Thanksgiving here, more are turning to these places to help fill the holiday table. But the number of New Yorkers who can't afford enough food was climbing, even before Sandy hit. NY1's Erin Clarke filed the following report.

Roberta Davis visited the Yorkville Common Pantry Tuesday and got ingredients for a Thanksgiving dinner, complete with all the fixings.

"My income has been severed a lot, so I'm having hard times with my family and my children just came home from college," she said. "So this will help out at the Thanksgiving table."

Davis is one of 1.5 million New Yorkers who are not able to provide enough for themselves, according to a report released by the New York City Coalition Against Hunger.
The group says that so far this year, food pantries and soup kitchens have seen a 5 percent spike in demand.

"Even places that were previously bedrock middle-class boroughs have significant amounts of people who are hungry or food secure because there just aren't enough jobs and the jobs that do exist don't pay a living wage," said Joel Berg, the director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger.

That need has increased just in the last couple of weeks since Hurricane Sandy hit.

"The increases have gone from last year, which was about a 15 percent increase in the number of people served, to about 20 to 22 percent," said Stephen Grimaldi, the executive director of the Yorkville Common Pantry. "So small increases, but increases nevertheless. And we're located in East Harlem, so I think that will tell you what we're preparing ourselves for."

The Coalition for Hunger's report found that places like the Yorkville Common Pantry are also experiencing added demand because New Yorkers are visiting pantries in different neighborhoods because they have been displaced or the closest place to find food has also suffered loss.

"Wherever we lost electricity including in Lower Manhattan, agencies lost food," Berg said.

Though not affected by the storm, Davis said she can relate to what it's like being without and is thankful that Yorkville Common Pantry is around this holiday season to fill in the gaps for New Yorkers.

"I had no idea it was going to be this much stuff," she said. "It's a lot. It's a lot and I'm so grateful."

The pantry welcomes New Yorkers from any borough to sign up for their services. Registration for a Thanksgiving meal ends Wednesday.

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