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New Yorkers Of The Year: Food Bank For NYC Takes Fresh Approach As Demand Grows

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The year 2013 began with New Yorkers in need after a devastating storm and it ended with deep cuts to the federal food stamp program. Through it all, with poverty and hunger on the rise, the Food Bank For New York City stood tall. NY1's John Schiumo filed the following report, which was shot, written and edited by Rachel Smith.

Kirk James welcomes New Yorkers when they walk through the door at a soup kitchen in Harlem. This year, it's been particularly busy.

"A lot of people been coming here. More than last year," recalls James. "A lot of people have been coming in now with their families, a lot have been cut off with their food stamps, you know, so they don't have no place to go eat."

But they do have the Food Bank for New York City. It runs the kitchen and food pantry -- one of a thousand programs the Food Bank helps. One in five residents rely on the non-profit to make ends meet. Demand is up 10 percent from last year.

"In the city known as the Big Apple, 1.9 million New Yorkers need food stamps in order to purchase them. And that's just the truth," says Food Bank for NYC CEO Margarette Purvis.

For many, finding nutritional food is particularly challenging. A Food Bank survey found 28 percent of those earning less than $25,000 a year said they buy unhealthy food because it's cheaper.

At its 90,000 square-foot warehouse in the Bronx, the Food Bank makes fresh produce a priority. It distributes 60 million pounds of food to charities each year.

"People are showing up -- and this is in our city -- showing up to get in a pantry line at 4 o'clock in the morning. They know that that line does not open up until eight," says Purvis.

More middle-income New Yorkers are joining those lines. It's a trend made worse by the lingering affects of Sandy and compounded by a $5 billion cut to the federal food stamp program.

"We don't want to continue to grow, we want to continue to shrink and know that everyone is eating and getting better. But right now the demand has been great. Between SNAP cuts and the economy it's an ongoing challenge," says Food Bank for NYC Vice President of Food Distribution Dan Cinquemani.

One the Food Bank for New York City is ready for. And that's why its employees and volunteers are our New Yorkers of the Year.

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