Approximately one in ten, or about 800,000, New York households experienced food insecurity at some point between 2019-21, according to a report from State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The report found that the number of households facing food insecurity declined during the COVID-19 pandemic due to federal relief programs and the expansion of federal food assistance programs. DiNapoli raised the concern that food insecurity may grow as federal benefits lapse. Notably, additional Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits expire on March 1.
This is the second report from DiNapoli’s office examining issues impacting New Yorkers in need. His first report examined poverty trends.
“Federal aid helped New Yorkers put food on the table during the pandemic, but some relief programs are ending as inflation and other pressures are pushing household budgets to their limit,” DiNapoli said. “With all the challenges people are facing during these difficult times, we should ensure New Yorkers don’t go hungry. Our nation’s nutrition programs should be expanded to help those who are struggling to feed themselves and their families.”
A household suffers from food insecurity when it cannot, at times, access adequate food for everyone in the home due to a lack of resources, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA reported 32.1% of households with annual incomes below the official poverty line were food insecure in 2021. National rates of food insecurity were highest for households headed by single mothers at 24.3%, as well as households headed by African Americans (19.8%) and Hispanics (16.2%) in 2021.
For the 2019-2021 period, New York’s rate of food insecurity was 10.3%, slightly lower than the U.S. average of 10.4%. New York’s rate of food insecurity is 4.1 percentage points lower than the peak of 14.4% reported in the 2012-2014 period. Food insecurity in New York, and nationally, continued trending downward even through the COVID pandemic due to federal policy actions. These actions enhanced income – including three rounds of economic impact payments and the temporary expansion of the Child Tax Credit in 2021 – and increased assistance available through federal nutrition programs, including SNAP and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
However, DiNapoli warns this downward trend may be abating as federal relief programs lapse and food prices continue to rise. Overall food prices are significantly higher since spring 2021, increasing 10.4% nationally and 8.6% in the New York-Newark-Jersey City area from December 2021 to December 2022.
U.S. Census survey data indicate a growing number of New Yorkers are reporting they sometimes or often did not have enough food to eat (“food insufficiency”). In the summer of 2021, 7.3% of New Yorkers reported food insufficiency, with higher rates in households with children. By November 2022, food insufficiency grew to 10.8% of New Yorkers and rates for households with children increased to 13.4%.
Over the last two years, Black and Hispanic or Latino adult New Yorkers were more likely to report food insufficiency than both white adult New Yorkers and adult New Yorkers overall. From 2021 to 2022 (through November) the percentage of adults experiencing food insufficiency increased from 21% to 22.7% for Hispanic or Latino New Yorkers, and 17.2% to 21.9% for African American New Yorkers.
DiNapoli's report recommends:
- Renew the Federal Child Tax Credit Expansion. Recipients of the federal enhanced Child Tax Credit reported greater declines in food insecurity than non-recipients, underscoring the interrelatedness of social safety net policies.
- Implement the White House Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition and Health. The White House has a goal of cutting food insecurity by half and virtually eliminating the number of U.S. households experiencing hunger by 2030. The strategy calls for efforts to improve food access and affordability, ease access to benefits, prioritize nutrition and strengthen federal assistance programs.
- Expand SNAP and WIC. The federal government should extend temporary benefits for SNAP, WIC and school meal programs until inflation’s impact on food costs subsides and raise the eligibility levels for SNAP and WIC to at least 200% of the federal poverty level.
- Improve Outreach and Access. State agencies should conduct outreach to increase participation in SNAP and WIC and make it easier to apply and recertify.
- Promote State Nutritional Programs. Support for programs such as Nourish New York, which connects New York agricultural products with food banks, should be continued.
- Pursue Innovative Approaches. The state and federal government should address the factors that contribute to food and nutrition insecurity, including expansion of medically tailored meals provided by Medicaid, subsidizing the costs of online food delivery, and incentives to bring grocery stores and healthy food to food deserts.
“Food insecurity exacerbated by the pandemic has long plagued communities and households across New York state,” said State Sen. Roxanne J. Persaud, 19th District. “State Comptroller DiNapoli’s report is a timely one: federal assistance has slowed to pre-pandemic levels; food prices have risen and New Yorkers are still struggling to get by despite significant economic recovery.”
"Access to quality foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables, is critical for everyone's health and well-being,” said State Sen. Rachel May, 48th District. “So, it’s concerning to see State Comptroller DiNapoli’s report showing many New Yorkers are going without adequate food. This problem is especially prevalent in communities like Syracuse and Auburn, where many residents live in food deserts and without access to grocery stores. With our partners in the federal government, we must work at the state level to build upon current programs, broaden our outreach to additional communities and get creative about how we tackle the pressing problem of food insecurity.”
"Food insecurity has existed in my district for many years and was only exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, 39th District. “As we were the epicenter of the pandemic, I have seen firsthand how food insecurity devastated not only my community but upstate communities as well. In response, I introduced the Nourish NY Act in this State Assembly, which has connected farmers and agricultural producers with food relief organizations for our friends and neighbors in need. I want to thank State Comptroller DiNapoli for highlighting food insecurity in his latest report and urging an expansion of programs and look forward to working closely with his team on this issue in the future.”
“State Comptroller DiNapoli’s statement 'we should ensure New Yorkers don’t go hungry' is both a summary of the issue as well as a call to action,” said United Way of New York State President Hugh Parry. "Nutrition programs are ending, and food prices are increasing which combine to endanger the vulnerable, both old and young. United Way of New York State commends the recommendations State Comptroller DiNapoli advances to address food insecurity. The system of United Ways throughout New York will continue their work at the community level to address hunger while the information and referral network, accessed by dialing the three-digit number 211, will direct people to help.”
"Food insecurity knows no bounds, whether someone lives in New York City or in remote rural areas of our state. It's imperative we have a strong food system that widens access to fresh, local food. This includes continued support for the Nourish NY and the HPNAP programs that benefit people in need and the state's family farms. New York Farm Bureau thanks State Comptroller DiNapoli for highlighting the issue and his support for New York agriculture," said David Fisher, New York Farm Bureau president.
“As the regional food bank for Long Island, we see how many families, seniors, and children struggle with food insecurity on a daily basis,” said Paule T. Pachter, president & CEO of Long Island Cares - The Harry Chapin Regional Food Bank. “We applaud State Comptroller DiNapoli for focusing on the issues of poverty and hunger and publishing a series of reports and recommendations that New York State can implement to reduce food insecurity. We join with State Comptroller DiNapoli in calling attention to several proposals in Congress that seek to reduce support for vital programs such as SNAP, WIC and other services that can result in lifting people out of the cycle of poverty and food insecurity. While the number of New Yorkers in need of emergency food assistance has gone down in recent months, the cost of living, inflation, and the cost of the average market basket are impacting many families and will undoubtedly result in an increase in need, which is why the recommendations provided by the State Comptroller need to be a priority for our elected officials to address.”
“Since the start of the pandemic, Catholic Charities has been on the front lines of feeding hungry New Yorkers, providing nearly 11 million meals at our food pantries, community kitchens and pop-up neighborhood food pantries," said Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, Monsignor Kevin Sullivan. “Food insecurity is a challenge that affects every community, and impacts families’ ability to meet other necessary expenses such as rent and utilities. Catholic Charities is committed to working for solutions that can increase access to food for New Yorkers in need.”
“We have witnessed the positive impact upon rural families, especially children, when we have taken vital steps to ensure food sufficiency,” said the Rev. Richard Witt, executive director, Rural Migrant Ministry. “I stand with State Comptroller DiNapoli and his call for the expansion of vital federal programs to help families put food on the table. It is important to not only ensure the well-being of our neighbor from a faith perspective, but it also it makes practical sense with regards to productivity, safety, and economic development. We need to commit to the continuation of these programs that benefit our brothers and sisters. It is the right thing to do.”
“This report underscores the importance of strong federal nutrition programs to ensure households across New York have access to enough healthy food,” said Julia Tedesco, president & CEO of Foodlink. “Although the numbers reflected in this report are startlingly high already, we know that in the Rochester region, our network of food pantries and meal programs are seeing a 30% increase in 2023 due to the expiration of some federal benefits and the impact of inflation. We support State Comptroller DiNapoli’s policy recommendations so that we can help millions of New Yorkers who, too often, skip meals to help make ends meet.”
"As an organization that has fought hunger for over 40 years, we at City Harvest know far too well that food insecurity is an issue that has challenged millions of New Yorkers in ways that are not fully reflected by traditional economic indicators such as poverty and unemployment,” said Jilly Stephen, CEO, City Harvest. “The underlying conditions of food insecurity disproportionately impact the most vulnerable populations in New York, especially people of color, immigrants, and households with children. We thank the State Comptroller for focusing on these challenges and look forward to continuing our work with leaders in Albany to ensure that we embrace public policy solutions to end hunger and its underlying causes."
“State Comptroller DiNapoli rightly calls for increasing participation in SNAP and other programs,” said AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel. “AARP New York is calling on the Governor to require ‘data matching’ between the Department of Health and the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance to help ensure New Yorkers enrolled in some benefits programs are automatically enrolled in others for which they qualify, including SNAP, utility and energy assistance programs and the newly expanded Medicare Savings Program (MSP). Increasing enrollment in MSP could offset the expiration of pandemic SNAP benefits by reducing qualifying Medicare beneficiaries’ premiums and prescription drug costs by over $7,000 a year each on average – while data matching would drive an additional $2.5 billion in federal assistance to New Yorkers.”
“Food hardship is too widespread even during the best of times, and is a particular concern now, as federal pandemic relief winds down while food prices are increasing, and New York’s economy is still recovering. According to our own Poverty Tracker Report, nearly 40% of New York City families with children experience some form of food insecurity," said Richard R. Buery Jr., CEO of Robin Hood, New York City's largest local poverty fighting philanthropy. "State Comptroller DiNapoli's food insecurity report underscores how vulnerable low-income New Yorkers continue to be and how urgent it is that Albany and Washington prioritize expanding and making permanent, pandemic-era tax credit programs and raise eligibility levels for supplemental food programs like SNAP, WIC and Nourish New York so low-income New Yorkers can keep food on their tables."
“FPWA applauds the recommendations put forth by State Comptroller DiNapoli,” said Jennifer Jones Austin, CEO and executive director, FPWA. “As we seek to ensure our neighbors and community members have access to the food they need to nourish themselves and their families, improving access and eliminating barriers to food security programs is critical. This report underscores the importance of fundamentally shifting the way we operate New York's social safety net programs, an issue FPWA's recent work calls attention to. As mentioned in our report, the gaps in the cash assistance program severely restrict access and prevent those receiving it from affording even their basic needs such as food. While we advocate for better income support programs it is also crucial that we never lose sight of the long-term goal of dismantling the structural forces that keep millions in poverty. This starts with ending the use of outdated poverty measures that undercount the number of people experiencing economic need and instead accurately measure the true cost of living in our state and country. We stand with the Comptroller’s office in these policy recommendations and look forward to working together to see them come to fruition.”
Other Report in Series
New Yorkers In Need: A Look at Poverty Trends in New York State For The Last Decade
Track state and local government spending at Open Book New York. Under State Comptroller DiNapoli’s open data initiative, search millions of state and local government financial records, track state contracts, and find commonly requested data.