BRONXVILLE, NY — June 4, 2021 — As we breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy the light at the end of the Covid tunnel, I read an article in the Journal News that was quite sobering and put other things in perspective. In essence, the article stated there is no vaccine for hunger. Hunger in Westchester will remain long after vaccines make the Covid virus a bad memory for most of us.
Despite ten communities in Westchester County ranked on Bloomberg’s 200 richest places to live in the United States, hunger persists in Westchester County as one in five Westchester residents do not have enough to eat. That need has quadrupled since the pandemic in several Westchester communities.
The county’s nonprofit umbrella food bank, Feeding Westchester, distributed 2,400,000 pounds of food in 2020, enough for nearly 17,000,000 meals and more than double the total from the year before. It is estimated that despite the end of the pandemic, food insecurity in Westchester County will last for the next two to four years as people try to find jobs at a work force wage.
When we wake up every morning in Bronxville, one fifth or 200,000 people in our county will be hungry with 33% of them children and 22% of them seniors. Families struggling to save have to buy cheap but filling foods that are often starchy and fatty as fresh produce and lean proteins are the most expensive items at a grocery store. By necessity, much of the food in our food banks must have a long shelf life which adds salt and chemicals that are not needed in large quantities in a healthy diet.
Looks can be deceiving. Folks may look well fed, particularly children, but often they are missing the vital nutrients to remain healthy going forward and can’t avoid the scourge of obesity as it t brings a whole set of lifetime problems including diabetes and high blood pressure.
Thanks to the efforts of the then Green Committee Chairwoman, May Liz Mulligan and volunteer gardeners, the Village constructed “The Giving Garden” on the corner of Pondfield Road and Gramatan Avenue. From this tiny plot, we have been able to grow hundreds of pounds of fresh vegetables that have been donated to the Mt. Vernon Soup Kitchen and the Eastchester Community Action Program in Tuckahoe.
Hunger in the suburbs has only increased for our senior citizens as their fixed incomes cannot sustain the increasingly high taxes. There is also a phenomenon in Westchester, as in many other affluent counties, called transitional poverty, where folks who always worked and made approximately $60,000 per year, enough to afford an apartment and a car, recently lost their jobs during Covid and had savings depleted on average in two months. Having to go to credit cards for relief got them in trouble very very quickly.
We live in a county where children go home on Friday and honestly don’t eat again until Monday morning.
In the Yonkers public school system, 77% of the students qualify for subsidized meals with the number at 52% in Port Chester schools.
Putting the problem in a national perspective, almost 50 million Americans are food insufficient, causing a host of health issues. Children are 1.4 times more likely to have asthma and food insecure seniors have severe limitations in their activities. Lack of a healthy diet is a leading cause of hypertension, diabetes and heart disease in adults and obesity in children. It also has proven to be a cause of poor school readiness, aggression, anxiety, depression, attention deficit disorder, iron deficiency and higher cholesterol in our youngest citizens.
Westchester County does have a very efficient and integrated food program under the umbrella organization “Feeding Westchester”, which is a 501(c)(3) tax deductible entity. They help over 300 programs including food pantries, soup kitchens, schools and mobile emergency pantries. For every dollar donated provides four dollars worth of food for our neighbors and our littlest neighbors need our help the most.
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Mary C. Marvin is the mayor of the Village of Bronxville, New York. Share your thoughts by directing email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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SOURCE: Mary Ann Maglioto | Assistant to the Mayor & Village Administrator | Bronxville Village Hall