Rising Food Cost Challenging New York City

By Thuy Tran
 

For Monique James, a mother of five from New York’s congressional district 16 in the Bronx, feeding her family has never been an easy task. This year, it is even harder when she finds herself constantly short of money.
“The cost of living is just harmful for poor people like myself, and I’d have to say my food budget has increased $200 a month,” said James. “Every food item and every store have gone up, so the price is not really affordable now.”

Meat, poultry, fish and eggs inflated by 7.4% in urban areas

Like millions of other low-income Americans, James is bearing the brunt of food inflation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, food at home for urban consumers inflated by 6.2 percent in the year ending October 2011.
Food price inflation at this rate is posing a hunger threat to low income Americans, who “had done far worse” than poor people in other parts of the western world, according to Joel Berg, a food security expert and executive director of New York City Coalition Against Hunger.
“One of the few benefits for low income people in America compared to other developed countries that had higher wages, and higher-developed social safety nets was at least we had lower food prices,” said Berg. “With the sky-rocketing food prices over the last few years, low-income Americans have lost even that one minimum advantage.”

Food Insecurity a Major Issue

Hunger has been a real problem in America, and despite having the reputation of being one of the country’s most prosperous cities, New York is facing not a lesser issue of food insecurity. According to the Food Hardship in America Report released earlier this year by the Food Research and Action Center, more than 20 percent of residents in nine of NYC’s 13 congressional districts lacked money for food last year.
The situation is worst in congressional district 16th, where 32.7 percent, or almost one in three people could not afford enough food. Compared to the national average of 18 percent, this is a significantly higher rate. The report also shows that district 16 is not only the hungriest area in NYC, but also the hungriest in the whole nation.
“[district 16] is one of the poorest congressional districts in the country, and it has high level of hunger and food insecurity for years, so unfortunately it’s no shock to us that they still have this problem,” commented Berg. “The reason is pretty simple: not enough people have jobs, those people who have jobs are often underpaid or don’t work full-time, and the federal nutrition safety net is not as strong as it needs to be.”
James has been unemployed for six years due to multiple health issues, and relies on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as “food stamps”, to feed her family. But the challenge of getting by on food stamps is not small to take.

Monique

Monique James (right) lives in Congressional District 16th, NYC

For important events like Thanksgiving or Christmas, James would ease her pocket and load up her shopping cart with green vegetables, a healthy food that her family has grown to eat since her daughter was diagnosed with diabetes. But in other times of the year, fresh fruit and vegetables have become a luxury that she has to cut back on to make ends meet. Balancing her children’s calorie and nutrition needs has also become more difficult.
“I would really have to say I have to cut back on vegetables because they are going up extremely,” said James. “For the kids, I try to give them more vegetable and cut back on starch, but it doesn’t help, because they are growing kids, they love to eat, and their metabolism burns.”
Not only vegetable, but also other food categories with high nutritional values rose dramatically in prices, compared to the average food-at-home inflation rate of 6.2 percent. Meat, poultry, fish and eggs cost 7.4 percent more than last year, while dairy products are 9 percent more expensive.
“Meat was seeing a lot of inflation because feed prices are high, fuel prices are high and also the inventory in the US right now is low, while we have really strong demand for this food, especially from overseas due to the weak US dollar,” said Richard Volpe, an economist from the USDA’s Economic Research Service. “Same story for dairy,” he added.

Food Assistance Programs Struggle to Meet Demand

Despite having to cut back on good food, James and some other 1.8 million NYC residents, or one in five households, can still manage to put food on the table, thanks to their SNAP benefits. With the recent economic downturns, more and more people are in need of food stamps. Statewide, SNAP participation rate has soared by 53 percent over the past three years. But according to estimates by the Food Research and Action Center, there are still three in ten Americans eligible for food stamps go un-served.

farmers market2

At least 500,000 NYC residents eligible for food stamps are un-served

“Here in New York, there are at least 500.000 people eligible for those benefits but not getting them, so it’s really a serious problem of underutilization,” said Berg. “It’s not that people don’t know about them, it’s that the city and state and federal governments have made it incredibly difficult for struggling families to get food stamp benefits which equal only a little more than one dollar per meal.”
As vital as SNAP is to combat hunger in America, the food assistance program has often found itself on the chopping block when it comes to funding cuts. Last year, Congress passed two bills that cut the SNAP benefit boosts, making room for approximately 10 percent reduction in average per person benefits.
This year, the House passed the controversial Paul Ryan Budget Plan to cut 20 percent off SNAP funding and convert the program to a block grant, potentially making access even more difficult for people in need. The plan, fortunately, was voted down by the Senate.
The 2012 Agricultural Appropriations Bill, signed by President Obama late last month, allocates an extra $14 billion to food stamp fund. Anti-hunger activists welcomed the bill, seeing it as the necessary reversal of the devastating cuts that have already been in implementation.
“Even with higher level of SNAP food stamp, there are 49 million Americans living in households that cannot afford enough food,” said Berg. “If we take away billions of extra food dollars from those struggling families, has been proposed by congress and actually implemented, if that’s not reversed you are really going to see mass suffering in this country.”
With the typical SNAP benefit of just about $4.5 per person per day, James has found that the monthly allowance can only last her family three weeks. She joins the line our side food pantries to get some groceries for the fourth week.
“Before allowing my kids to go hungry, I have to stand in the same line that I donated to for many of years, to get me a donation,” shared James. “It’s hard, but you have to do what you have to do to feed the kids.”
According to Food Bank for NYC, approximately 1.3 million residents in the city, mainly women, children, senior, the working poor and people with disabilities, are relying on soup kitchens and food pantries. They run on both public funding and donations, but these resources have been in the decline due to the bad economy.
Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger Food Pantry in Brooklyn had about 10,000 patrons last year. This year, it is serving 15,000 resident of Bedford-Stuyvesant.
“Since the summer months till now, we have seen a steady increase in the number of people needing food, and we find that our resource are being used up”, said Dr. Malony Samuels, Bed-Stuy Campaign founder and executive director.

cannedfood

Food pantry resources are running low

According to Dr Samuels, the bad economy has forced many donors to tighten their belt and stop giving. All the while, food inflation has made it much more costly to feed a family in need. With distribution organizations like Food Bank and City Harvest receive less funding, the pantry receive less food.
“We have got very little from TEFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program), which would normally our major supply from the Food Bank,” said Dr Samuels. “It is bad that they are experiencing funding cuts, because that will not just us but every emergency food pantries in New York City area.”
Balancing her family’s food budget amid inflation and funding cuts is already a huge challenge for James. But for her family to get by, sometimes she has to make sacrifices that she knows may cause even more harm.
“I have to take medications, but I’m not getting my full meds because either I get my meds or I feed, and of course, I choose to feed my kids,” she said.
But if I don’t take care of myself I won’t be able to feed them, then it’s no good.”

 

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Chị em tớ ở phố Wall…

Chị em tớ đưa tin Chiếm Phố Wall… (Tớ là đứa đứng sau bị cu Tùng che khuất chứ không phải cái nàng tây tóc xù lẻn vào quay ké bọn tớ phỏng vấn đâu nhá! :))

Tung-OWS

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Nỗi buồn ông tây…

Một ông tây 101%, cực yêu Việt Nam, cực tin tưởng người Việt Nam, nằng nặc đòi làm Công dân Việt Nam, đã là của hiếm.
Một công dân Việt Nam, làm nghề giáo viên, mà lại biết bày tỏ lòng yêu nước bằng cách đi làm phim tài liệu về nỗi đau của tổ quốc, lại càng là của hiếm.
Một công dân Việt Nam đi làm phim tài liệu về nỗi đau của tổ quốc, được Bộ Ngoại giao quan tâm ủng hộ, được Đài truyền hình hỗ trợ kỹ thuật và chi phí làm phim, cũng là chuyện chẳng mấy khi xảy ra.
Là một người đang theo đuổi cái nghiệp làm phim tài liệu, mình xúc động, và thấy vui cho ông tây. Thật bõ công sức và tâm huyết ông bỏ ra để được trở thành công dân Việt Nam.
Phim tài liệu “Hoàng Sa Việt Nam – Nỗi đau mất mát” của Andre Mendras Hồ Cương Quyết, một bộ phim đầy yêu thương và trắc ẩn với ngư dân Lý Sơn, đã ra đời bằng cả nhiệt huyết và sự chân thành như vậy như vậy.
Thế mà người ta lại tạt gáo nước lạnh vào lòng nhiệt huyết của ông tây. Bộ phim bị cản trở, bị ngăn chặn, bị cấm chiếu.
Tiếc quá, gia tài phim tài liệu hay của Việt Nam mình vốn đã nghèo nàn rồi… Vừa tiếc cho thân phận phim, lại vừa lo không biết ông tây có vì thế mà “lăn tăn” về quyết định trở thành người Việt của mình hay không.
“Hoàng Sa Việt Nam – Nỗi đau mất mát” là một bộ phim mộc mạc, chân chất, thủ pháp không có gì đặc biệt, nhưng người xem thấy trong đó có tấm lòng.
Không chỉ tấm lòng một người yêu nước, mà tấm lòng hàng triệu người yêu nước, của Bộ Ngoại giao, của Đài truyền hình…
Giá có thêm tấm lòng của Công an Nhân dân TP HCM nữa thì tốt…

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[Cornie Reps] Phong trào “Chiếm phố Wall” tại New York

Đây là sản phẩm đầu tiên Cornie Reps sản xuất theo đặt hàng của VTV.
Phóng viên: Ngô Tùng

Occupy Wall Street – Tung Ngo from Thuy Tran on Vimeo.

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Kính gửi hai bác Nguyễn Sĩ Đại và Trần Mạnh Hảo

haodai

Hình chôm từ blog truongduynhat

Cháu không phải nhà thơ, không hẳn là người yêu thơ, mà cũng không đời nào dám nhận là người hiểu biết dù chỉ một chút ít về thơ. Cháu chỉ là một sinh viên bình thường, sau những lúc quay cuồng bài vở thì cũng chỉ có thú vui lên mạng đọc báo lá cải. Hôm nay, cháu lớ ngớ thế nào lại lạc vào trận địa “Tổng giám đốc- tổng biên tập Đài phát thanh và truyền hình Hà Nội, nhà báo Trần Gia Thái nghiêng cả về thu khúc thẳm sâu” của hai bác, đầu óc không những chẳng thư giãn mà lại còn thêm quay cuồng giữa một ma trận chữ nghĩa, lý luận, và cả phản lý luận.

Continue reading

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Đi toà án đêm (2)…

Gabi mới đến, còn Kate thì vừa chui ra khỏi một phòng xử án khác.

Kate: “Chúng mày biết không? Tao vừa theo dõi vụ xử hai tên đó giết người. Lúc đợi toà làm việc, hai tên đó ngồi ở băng ghế ngay gần tao. Hai tên giết người này cứ nhìn chằm chằm vào tao một cách kỳ lạ. Tao co rúm người lại, được một lúc thì chịu hết nổi, phải biến ra ngoài đây.” Continue reading

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Đi toà án đêm…

night court 001

Bên ngoài toà án đêm Manhattan (nyctheblog)

Tuần này, cả lớp phải làm bài tập về Toà án đêm cho lớp của cô Cora Daniels. Bài tập khá lạ, không phải đưa tin diễn biến một phiên toà, mà đến để nghe ngóng, tìm ra một câu chuyện, một vấn đề nào đó và viết một bài về câu chuyện hay vấn đề đó. Tất nhiên không phải viết suông, mà vẫn phải có nguồn tin, có phỏng vấn, theo đúng tiêu chuẩn báo chí. Continue reading

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