The Food Bank for New York City released a report Tuesday showing that the number of hungry kids has soared over the last few years as New Yorkers struggle with a higher cost of living.
According to the study, as of last year, more than one out of five city kids – nearly 400,000 children – relied on soup kitchens and food pantries. That figure is up 48 percent from 2004.
"I find the data we are sharing today particularly heartbreaking," said Food Bank for New York President Dr. Lucy Cabrera.
The Food Bank is concerned the struggling economy will cause even more food poverty unless serious steps are taken.
Among those who rely on food pantries is Loren Jemmott and her nine-year-old son, Efrain Mendoza. An immigrant from Panama, she's been in the United States four years and had trouble feeding her family, even before the financial crisis hit fever pitch.
"We don't eat enough food. We have to go from one place to another place," she said. "Sometimes they don't give you enough food to eat. So we are passing a hardship."
Harlem resident Marina Araujo goes to Food Change to look for goods for her four children and five grandchildren, all who live with her. She says she sees the financial crisis written all over the shelves – which she said are no longer full.
City officials said they are not only worried about the impact of poor nutrition on a child's body, but also on a child's mind – affecting the work they do in the classroom.
"We all know this: a child that has not had breakfast or dinner will walk into that classroom, put their head on the table, and go to sleep," said City Councilman Eric Gioia.
The group is recommending a number of measures, including funding to increase the amount of fresh food in low-income communities and more support for emergency food organizations.