Last week, the Census Bureau released new data announcing that 15.1 percent of Americans now live in poverty—the highest rate since 1993. According to the New York Coalition Against Hunger (NYCAH), the numbers are about the same in New York State, and the last six years has seen a 56 percent increase in New Yorkers going hungry.

With poverty and hunger on the rise in New York, are the poor paying more for staples like milk and bread? Supermarkets are fewer and farther between in impoverished neighborhoods, making higher prices likely thanks to supply and demand. Using Census data, City Limits went comparison shopping at grocery stores in Brooklyn neighborhoods with some of the highest and lowest poverty rates in the borough.

About three miles due east of Prospect Park, Brownsville ranks among the most impoverished neighborhoods of Brooklyn. Census tract 912, for example, has a poverty rate of 54 percent and is surrounded by areas where as many as 62 percent of residents are impoverished. Here are the costs of staple foods at the Associated supermarket on Livonia avenue (at Rockaway avenue):

Gallon of 1 percent milk: $3.33
Loaf of "Holsum" wheat bread: $2.29
Cheerios: $5.19
Peanut butter: $3.09 for Skippy
Pound of spaghetti: $1.39
Our basket: $15.29

On the other side of Brooklyn, the neighborhood of Bay Ridge has some of the lowest poverty rates in the borough. A residential neighborhood along the water, census tract 40 reported 0 percent poverty and is surrounded by areas with less than 5 percent poverty. It is a part of Brooklyn that feels remarkably suburban, with single-family homes, driveways, and children playing in tree-lined streets. There aren't any supermarkets in the immediate vicinity, but most people have cars, making what could be a half-mile trek to the local Key Foods an easy commute. The store also offers free delivery and other perks, like free valet parking.

Gallon of 1 percent milk: $3.39
Loaf of mass-market wheat bread: $1.99
Cheerios: $5.39
Peanut butter: $2.99 for Skippy
Pound of spaghetti: $1.39
Our basket: $15.29

I live on Atlantic Avenue, in a mixed residential-commercial area at the intersection of Prospects Heights, Crown Heights, Bed-Stuy, and Clinton Hill. Here, wealth and poverty are side by side. My Census tract has a poverty rate of 27 percent, but the other side of Atlantic has a rate of 6 percent. The closest supermarket is a few blocks away, in Census tract 205, which has a 10 percent poverty rate. Here are the prices at NSA Supermarket on Washington Avenue (at Prospect Place):

Gallon of 1 percent milk: $3.99
Loaf of mass-market wheat bread: $1.99
Cheerios: $6.19
Peanut butter: $3.29 for Skippy
Pound of spaghetti: $1.69
Our basket: $16.85

On Utica Avenue, a few blocks south of Eastern Parkway, the Crown Heights C Town grocery store is located in Census tract 349, which has a 25 percent poverty rate. Surrounding areas have poverty rates of 21 percent and 36 percent. Here are the going prices for staple goods:

Gallon of 1 percent milk: $3.89
Loaf of mass-market wheat bread: $2.79
Cheerios: $6.99
Peanut butter: $3.29 for Skippy
Pound of spaghetti: $1.29
Our basket: $18.25

Heading north from Crown Heights, Super Foodtown on Fulton Street and Brooklyn Avenue is in Bed-Stuy's Census tract 269, which has a poverty rate of 39 percent. Surrounding areas have poverty rates of 29 percent and 28 percent. With rows upon rows of gleaming aisles befitting its name, Super Foodtown had some of the lowest prices for staples:

Gallon of 1 percent milk: $3.99
Loaf of mass-market wheat bread: $2.50
Cheerios: $4.89
Peanut butter: $1.99 for Jif
Pound of spaghetti: $1.19
Our basket: $14.56

Brooklyn Heights is known to be among the ritzier neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Gristedes supermarket on Clark Street is located in Census tract 5, which has a 6 percent poverty rate. Prices were generally very high at this particular store, but particular staple items (peanut butter, spaghetti) happened to be on sale:

Gallon of 1 percent milk: $4.39
Loaf of mass-market wheat bread: $1.99
Cheerios: $6.79
Peanut butter: $3.00 for Jif
Pound of spaghetti: $.99
Our basket: $17.16

If this unscientific survey is any indication, the relationship between neighborhood poverty and food prices is not simple. Shoppers in lower-income neighborhoods generally paid more for bread but less for cereal. But differences in brands and the role of temporary mark-downs complicate even our very small sample. And poverty rates are just one indicator of a neighborhood's economic status: In areas where the poor are a very small share of the consumer population (like Bay Ridge, poverty rate 0, and Brooklyn Heights, poverty rate 6) differences in the incomes of the non-poor might explain differences in prices at the grocery store. And our survey only looked at supermarkets; in many low-income areas, delis and bodegas are the more accessible sources for food.

Indeed, Joel Berg of the New York Coalition Against Hunger cautions that food prices don't tell the whole story. Sometimes certain food items are in fact cheaper in poorer areas. "But lots of other things cost more for poor people," Berg said, pointing out that banking, for example, means paying for a check cashing service. Oftentimes supermarkets are a subway ride away, which means almost an extra $5 per shopping trip. Plus, buying cheaper in bulk is harder for lower income people, who often have less storage space in freezers and refrigerators and are more likely to suffer from pest problems that might lead to losing food. "The stakes are higher," Berg said.