Today’s Read: What Urban Hunger Looks Like Now

A combination of stagnant wages and skyrocketing living costs has pushed more New Yorkers to the brink of survival, unable to afford the most basic necessities. Due to funding cuts for federal nutrition programs, record numbers of New Yorkers face constant uncertainty as to where or when their next meal will come.

The Coalition is on the frontlines of this battle: We serve 1,000 meals every single night through our Grand Central Food Program, New York’s largest mobile soup kitchen. We’ve never missed a night of operation in three decades, making us a consistent, vital resource for the growing numbers of homeless and low-income men, women and children who line up for what is often their only meal of the day.

This year, we’re celebrating the program’s 30th anniversary with a special GCFP30 Campaign to raise funds for this critical program. With your support, we can continue to be there for the countless hungry New Yorkers who depend on us.

Often, the true scope of the hunger crisis is hidden. Photographer Joey O’Loughlin spent three years photographing a handful of NYC food pantries and was startled by the wide range of people struggling with food insecurity. O’Loughlin spoke with CityLab about her photo project and hunger in NYC:

There are over 600 food pantries in the five boroughs; 1.4 million New Yorkers rely on assistance from either pantries or soup kitchens to survive amid the city’s ever-escalating cost of living, says Carol Schneider, an associate director at Food Bank for New York City, which stocks the pantries. O’Louglin’s photographs, on display at the Brooklyn Historical Society through November 5 in the exhibition Hidden in Plain Sight: Portraits of Hunger in NYC, bring the reality out into the open.

And it’s not just in New York; nationwide, 14 percent of households are food insecure, 6 percent extremely so. Food insecurity affects every county, every congressional district.

“The food pantries are a wonderful thing,” O’Loughlin says. “The donated food allows for a sense of family, a sense of safety, in a very harsh economic climate.” But still, she adds, there has to be another solution: one that will directly address the poverty and low wages that necessitate the food lines.

It is no coincidence that O’Loughlin’s photos have gone up on exhibit during an election year. “This is an issue that cuts through all layers of society,” she says. Following the November 2013 bill that cut funding to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the pantries themselves, Schneider adds, have been stretched to full capacity; O’Loughlin’s photographs show a bandage at its breaking point. “People just have to get paid enough,” O’Loughlin says. “Nobody wants to stand on the lines.”