Contact: Michele McEvoy, mcevoy@nyhealthfoundation.org

August 16, 2022, New York, NY – Food insecurity is highly associated with worse health: nearly half of all food-insecure New Yorkers rate their health as poor or fair; 69% report having at least one chronic illness; and more than half find it difficult to get the food they need.

These findings come from the first-ever statewide survey on the connections between food and health, released today by the New York Health Foundation (NYHealth). The new research contrasts the day-to-day lives and struggles of food-insecure and food-secure New Yorkers.

“When we listen to hungry New Yorkers, it’s clear that we cannot have good health without access to affordable and nutritious food,” said David Sandman, Ph.D., President and CEO of NYHealth. “New Yorkers who struggle to feed themselves and families make perilous choices between putting food on the table, getting health care and filling prescriptions, and paying for other basics like rent and gas.”

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 2.1 million New York residents (more than 10%) were food insecure. With food prices now at their highest levels in decades, the prevalence and severity of food insecurity are likely to be even worse.

The NYHealth Survey of Food and Health findings include:

  • Food-insecure individuals are twice as likely to report poor or fair health as their food-secure peers (48% compared with 23%).
  • Food-insecure New Yorkers are nearly nine times as likely to report difficulty obtaining food as their food-secure peers (53% compared with 6%).
  • Twenty-one percent of food-insecure individuals delay or skip medical care, and 13% delay or do not purchase prescription medication.
  • Food-insecure New Yorkers make tough tradeoffs to afford food: 65% buy cheaper foods; 49% stretch food/eat less; and 29% visit a food pantry/soup kitchen.
  • Nearly 90% of New Yorkers who participate in WIC and SNAP say the benefits are easy to use, but not all food-insecure individuals enroll or are eligible: 28% of food-insecure New Yorkers did not participate in any benefits or emergency food program.
  • New Yorkers overwhelmingly support policy solutions that could help alleviate food insecurity. More than 80% of food-secure New Yorkers and 90% or more of food-insecure New Yorkers support making school lunch free for all students, streamlining food benefit applications, and making it easier for families to use SNAP benefits to purchase food online.

“Good health requires more than health care,” said Julia McCarthy, Senior Program Officer at NYHealth. “New Yorkers want action from policymakers to improve food security, and that starts by listening to the voices of those who are directly affected by hunger.”

The report offers recommendations for both policymakers and health care providers. Policy recommendations include making universal free school meals permanent; increasing outreach for SNAP and WIC and making the application and recertification processes easier; and working with federal partners to cover the costs of online grocery delivery. Health care providers can implement screening and referral processes for food insecurity and support Food Is Medicine interventions like medically tailored meals.

NYHealth developed and commissioned the statewide survey, conducted by the research firm Luminas. A total of 1,507 New York adults (both food-insecure and food-secure) completed the online survey, which was available in both English and Spanish. Food insecurity was classified using a validated tool from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Full results from the NYHealth Survey of Food and Health, infographics, and detailed research methods are available here. Forthcoming briefs will examine the experiences of households with children, beneficiaries of public benefits programs, and rural/suburban/urban residents.

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The New York Health Foundation (NYHealth) is a private, statewide foundation dedicated to improving the health of all New Yorkers. The Foundation is committed to making grants, informing health policy and practice, spreading effective programs to improve the health care system and the health of New Yorkers, serving as a convener of health leaders across the State, and providing technical assistance to its grantees and partners.

 

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