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Demand Rises In Popular Soup Kitchens
From El Diario
May 28, 2003

By Enrique Soria

A coalition that fights hunger described the perception that the city government meets food requirements for the poor as false. In this sense, the authorities have signaled that there has not been an increase in demand.

The New York City Coalition Against Hunger said yesterday in Harlem that there is a 100 percent increase in demand in the five districts of the food distribution programs, and in popular soup kitchens since August 2001.

Based on a study among 87 popular soup-kitchens and food distribution centers, the coalition in question concluded that 74% of the places have seen exceeded capacities in the last six months, with an increasing number of needy people who come daily for food.

The same study also concluded that 44% of these places, also in the last six months, have been forced to refuse help to people, reduce the quantity of food distributed per person, or limit the hours of operation.

A second study, based on interviews with 160 people conducted in food distribution centers and in popular soup-kitchens, of which 118 applied for food coupons, determined that around 10% could not obtain a request for these coupons, which is considered a violation of federal law.

It also concluded that about half of the interviewees were not encourages to ask for the requirements for it, that more than 70% have to wait, at least three hours, before getting an interview, and that 22% had to wait up to eight hours for it.

[The study also showed] that 40% of the people desiring food coupons were treated rudely, that only half were told that they qualified, that 20% were discouraged for having asked, that 42% were obliged to go to the competent offices more that one time, and that in 57% of the cases, the HRA (Human Recourses Administration of the City of New York) was incompetent in fulfilling the requirements of the federal law that names that the requests must be processed in a maximum of 30 days.

On the other hand, the HRA responded that if it were certain that it did not fulfill with the standards of the federal law, they would have already been sanctioned, rather the HRA, - according to their spokesman Frank Sobrino – has complied in 90% of the cases, giving due course to the requests for food coupons, and that the organization supplies, with more that 14 million pounds of food a year, to more than 600 food distribution centers in the entire city of New York.

The presentation of the information by the Coalition Against Hunger was in the charge of the Executive Director, Joel Berg, of the Public Defender, Betsy Gotbaum, and the assistant to the leader of the majority in the Municipal Council, Councilman Bill Perkins. The act took place in the Community Kitchen in West Harlem.

Translated from Spanish by Charlotte Triggs

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