The warehouse at Island Harvest headquarters in Melville in 2022.

The warehouse at Island Harvest headquarters in Melville in 2022. Credit: Rick Kopstein

Almost 75% of New Yorkers surveyed are finding it harder to afford groceries now compared with one year ago and 59% said they have experienced stress, anxiety or depression in the past 12 months trying to figure out how to get food on the table for their families, according to a poll released early Monday.

The situation is just as dire on Long Island, the poll shows, with 28% of respondents from Nassau and Suffolk counties saying they have experienced one or more symptoms of food insecurity in the past year and 52% saying they worry about how to pay for food if they are stuck with an unexpected $500 expense.

The poll was commissioned by No Kid Hungry New York and shines a light on how hunger impacts many New Yorkers, including those on Long Island.

“It’s getting worse and it’s harder for families to be able to afford groceries,” said Rachel Sabella, director of No Kid Hungry New York, a campaign of the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group Share Our Strength. “This is just devastating because it’s impacting families in so many different places.”

WHAT TO KNOW

  • A new statewide poll by No Kid Hungry New York shows that 73% of respondents said it is harder to afford groceries than it was one year ago.
  • 59% of adults said they experienced stress, anxiety and depression while figuring out how to afford food for their families.
  • Long Island nonprofits that battle food insecurity said they are seeing a rise in the number of people who need help. 


Sabella said she is especially concerned about the added stress expressed by adults and parents who are struggling to afford enough food for their families.

More than half of the respondents on Long Island said it has impacted their mental health, according to the poll.

“One of the biggest changes we have seen in the last year is the expiration of additional support from the federal government,” Sabella said, noting the end of expanded child tax credits, extra money in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that helps low-income people purchase food, and universal free meals in schools.

Other findings in the statewide poll were that 29% of parents worried their household would not have enough food and 40% said they were forced to decide between paying for food or other costs like rent, utilities, or gas.

About one-third of respondents classified as middle-income (earning between $50,000 to $100,000 a year) said they experienced food insecurity.

The poll, which was conducted online and with text messages by Change Research from April 3 to 10, surveyed 1,189 state residents. The statewide margin of error was plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

Some 16% of the respondents were from Long Island. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as the “limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, or limited or uncertain ability to acquire foods in socially acceptable ways.”

Jessica Rosati, vice president for programs at Long Island Cares — The Harry Chapin Food Bank, said the nonprofit has seen a 69% increase in the number of children it served in the first quarter of 2023 compared with the first quarter of 2022.

The group estimates about 230,000 Long Islanders are food insecure and 68,000 of them are children.

Rosati said she worries the numbers cited in the poll will increase even more if programs that made it easier for people to access food continue to dwindle.

“During the pandemic such programs were so relaxed so it was inclusive that no matter who you are, where you were, what your needs were, you had access,” she said. “The pandemic has subsided so all those provisions in place to help people are now going away but what hasn't gone away is the rising cost of goods, inflation and underemployment. Those are all factors that contribute to the reason why people need to rely on the emergency food network to supplement their needs.”

Island Harvest, a large hunger relief organization on Long Island, has also seen an increase in need.

“Our lines are getting very long and the calls coming in for help are starting to come in very strong again,” said Randi Shubin Dresner, president and CEO of Island Harvest. “In December [2022], the number of people coming to our mobile food market, compared with March [2022] went up 199%.”

She said restoring funding from the state and federal government for programs like SNAP is key to helping the food insecurity crisis.

“With the emergency [SNAP] funding gone, it sends people back to 2019 numbers, which were far too low to begin with and now costs are higher at the supermarket and in general,” Dresner said. “Here on Long Island, it’s very expensive to live between housing, taxes and transportation. If the benefits allotments were higher, it would have a very positive impact.” 

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