disorder: Mark Dunlea.
Photo by Teri Currie.
Will Feed the People?
in the Capital Region is on the rise—and so is the fear that
New York state will reduce funding for emergency food programs
that time of the year again when the airports are packed with
holiday travelers, the lines at the grocery stores are congested
with shoppers, and people everywhere are bustling about in
preparation for Thanksgiving dinner. Many people will not
have to think twice about whether or not they will have a
place to go this Thursday, with a spread waiting for them
when they arrive. But a large number of New Yorkers will go
hungry this holiday season, and that number appears to be
on the rise.
According to a recent survey taken by the Hunger Action Network
of New York State, the number of people seeking services from
food pantries and soup kitchens is up 28 percent from last
year. However, the amount of donations is down by 30 to 40
At a press conference on Monday, religious leaders and emergency
food providers voiced their concerns about the increase of
people seeking services from emergency food programs. Many
attribute the rise of those in need to job loss. Sheila McCarthy,
community food coordinator for HANNYS, said that with the
decline in the stock market, many businesses, which in the
past would have given generously around this time of year,
seem to be tightening their belts.
The Rev. Donna Elia, of Troy Area United Ministries, said
that her program is feeling the effects of an increase in
those seeking services. Just last month, she said, the number
of referrals to her organization rose from 82 to 200.
are full to capacity and we have been forced to turn people
away,” said Elia.
The Rev. James Reisner, Pastor at Westminster Presbyterian
Church, has seen the same trend in the South End of Albany,
where he does a large amount of his ministry work.
the South End, the number of people seeking services has doubled
this past year,” said Reisner. “The gap between those who
have and those who have not is increasing, especially when
you look at an area like the South End and Arbor Hill. We
have a growing underclass.”
Organizers of food pantries are also concerned that the state’s
budget deficit, estimated at $6 to $8 billion this year, could
add to an already-growing crisis. They hope that the $24 million
dollars a year in state funding for emergency food programs
will be maintained, but many are concerned that their programs
will be among the first to receive cuts. They also contend
that unless funding for emergency food programs is increased,
it will be difficult for many organizations to operate because
of the rise in the amount of people seeking services.
is no time to balance the state budget on the backs of the
poor,” said Mark Dunlea, associate director of HANNYS. “Emergency
food programs are already overburdened, and 87 percent responding
to our survey expect an increase in the number of guests within
the next six months. It is therefore imperative that funding
for social programs like these be preserved, if not increased,
during these devastating times.”
Many would like to see Congress include increased funding
for training and education as part of the federal reauthorization
of welfare. McCarthy said that many people leaving welfare-to-work
programs last year found jobs that paid below the state’s
poverty level, leading them to depend on food pantries and
soup kitchens to support their families.
state funding to the EFPs would make it impossible for food
pantries and soup kitchens to keep up with the increasing
number of households utilizing these services,” said Reisner.
than 60 people turned out for a holiday toy drive at the Islamic
Center of the Capital District in Schenectady on Nov. 19.
The event was a joint effort between two organizations: Women
Against War and the Women of the Islamic Center of the Capital
District. The two groups collected toys for those families
that cannot afford to buy their children gifts for the Muslim
holiday Eid, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
The families that will receive these gifts are those whose
fathers have been detained or deported by the United States
government since Sept. 11, 2001. According to Shokreia Yaghi,
whose husband was picked up last October by the FBI and was
deported to Jordan in July, Ramadan is a very difficult time
of year for those families in need, and as with Christmas,
many children look forward to receiving gifts for Eid. Yaghi
will bring the presents to a dinner in New York City this
Saturday where the toys will be distributed.