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’Tis the season to be jolly, but not if you’re hungry in Queens.
A new study has found that more than 319,000 people in the borough go to bed at night without having had enough to eat — a sobering statistic and wake-up call for a city that prides itself on being the nerve center of the world.
The report, by the nonprofit Coalition Against Hunger, underscored Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s campaign narrative that New Yorkers are living a “Tale of Two Cities” as the gap widens between the rich and poor.
One out of every 10 Queens residents lacked adequate food in the past two years, but even more disturbing was the finding that one in eight children in the borough is hungry. Research has repeatedly shown that low-income children suffering from poor nutrition underperform their peers on school tests.
Our children are the future of Queens and yet they’re sitting in classrooms with empty stomachs trying to compete on the same playing field with kids who come from homes with well-stocked food shelves.
Hunger is the basic dividing line between the haves and have-nots. It is also the most searing example of growing inequality in the city.
The economic collapse and the devastation unleashed by Hurricane Sandy pushed more people from Queens into poverty and swelled the lines of working poor seeking help at food pantries.
With demand for food skyrocketing, 86 percent of pantries and kitchens in Queens reported serving more people in 2010-12, while 43 of these agencies did not have enough supplies to serve the hungry. Federal funds for these food suppliers have been cut by nearly half since 2009.
And the demand numbers were compiled before the House Republicans voted to reduce New Yorkers’ food stamp benefits by $36 a month — equal to six modest meals for a family of four — Nov. 1.
As the man in the red suit travels around the borough, think about what you can do. Many of the food agencies need skilled as well as unskilled volunteers. More restaurants should consider donating uneaten food to pantries and kitchens. And tell our elected officials they must fight harder to have the food stamp cuts restored.
Joel Berg, executive director of the coalition, champions universal pre-K, which would cut child hunger because the federal government funds nutritious meals for the program.
When our youngest residents are at grave risk, it’s time for all of us to step up to the plate figuratively and literally.
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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