Food pantries facing their traditional summer shortages received a boost Tuesday as New York City Council announced the start of a week-long food drive throughout the five boroughs.
The council has also set aside $1.32 million in the upcoming fiscal year for the city's food banks, pantries and soup kitchens.
"Food security is a basic human right, yet every night far too many New Yorkers go to bed hungry," Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said during a press conference in the Bronx.
Mark-Viverito said rising food costs and supply shortages are to blame. Last year, half of New York's hunger relief organizations did not have enough resources, and had to turn away people who needed food, according to a media release.
"The City Council’s food drive and $1.32 million food pantry initiative will go a long way toward filling the empty shelves and providing wholesome, nutritious meals to anyone in need,” Mark-Viverito said.
From Aug.25-29, 33 city council members will collect non-perishable foods in their districts for donation to pantries throughout the city. The drive also honors Mother Teresa's 104th birthday.
Joel Berg, executive director of the New York Coalition Against Hunger, said there's been a food shortage in New York since he joined the advocacy organization 13 years ago, proving that charities can't make up for the lack of a "livable wage, jobs and social safety net."
Berg commended the city council for their outreach efforts, and said that although the de Blasio administration has worked to increase food access for children during the summer, there's nowhere near the same amount of kids being served as during the school year.
"Public schools in New York serve 800,000 meals a day," Berg said. "They're lucky if they serve a few hundred thousand, at least half a million kids over the summer."
Berg said a cut in SNAP benefits last fall has made the food shortage even worse.
"Every problem we have as a nation is exacerbated by the fact we have such high levels of hunger," said Berg, adding children can't learn, workers can't work and seniors can't be independent if they're hungry.
According to the New York Coalition Against Hunger's 2013 survey, about 1.4 million city residents were food insecure.
Food Bank for New York City data shows hungry New Yorkers miss about 250 million meals a year. Broken down by borough, 88 million meals are missed in Brooklyn, 55 million in Queens, 53 million in the Bronx, 45 million in Manhattan and 9 million in Staten Island.