The Department of Agriculture estimates that a single person, on a budget, will spend about $150 a month on food; for a family of four, the cost comes to $520 a month. Since the federal government declared a “war on poverty,” the official guidelines for determining who is poor in America has been based on the cost of the so-called monthly “food basket.”
The “food basket” model was developed in 1963 by Mollie Orshanky, an economist working for the Social Security Administration. A federal survey estimated the average American family spent one-third of its income on food; Orshanky determined that a family in need is one whose income is less than three times the cost of the cheapest possible “food basket.” Nearly 50 years later, this remains the federal government’s official method for measuring poverty.
So how many New Yorkers are poor? It depends who’s counting. The feds say one thing, the city says another. Today, the federal poverty threshold for a family of four is $22,350 a year; for an individual it’s $10,890. More than 1.5 million New Yorkers, nearly one in five residents, live in poverty according to these standards, City Limits reported. Critics have long argued that the federal government’s guidelines distort the landscape of poverty because they do not incorporate other annual costs such as health care and housing, which in areas like New York City are higher than in most other parts of the country. In 2008, Mayor Michael Bloomberg updated the measurement model using guidelines recommended by the National Academy of Sciences that factor in such necessities. By the news standards, it was determined that more than one in four New Yorkers — more than 1.8 million residents — are impoverished.
Channel 13's MetroFocus interviewed New Yorkers at three grocery stores in some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods about what’s actually in their food baskets. Click through to learn what they're eating ...
(To see more MetroFocus coverage, go to http://www.thirteen.org/metrofocus/)