Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Banking on Food Hand-outs

"I'm pretty good at making things stretch as far as I can, but food is so high now and I have to have gas in my car to do my job," said Diana Blasingame, who earns $9 an hour as a home health aide. "I work full time, but I don't have health insurance and sometimes there just isn't enough to pay bills and buy food."

Operators of free food banks say they are seeing more working people needing assistance. The increased demand is outstripping supplies and forcing many food banks to cut portions. Demand is being driven up by rising costs of food, housing, utilities, health care and gasoline, while food manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers are finding they have less surplus food to donate and government help has decreased, according of Second Harvest Foodbanks.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's annual hunger survey released showed that more than 35.5 million people in the United States were hungry in 2006. While that number was about the same as the previous year, heads of food banks say many more people are seeking their assistance.
1,700 local Catholic Charities agencies and institutions served nearly 8 million people in 2006, including 4.1 million living below the poverty line. Catholic Charities agencies are serving a rising percentage of people who live below the federal poverty line, which in 2006 was $20,000 for a family of four. The report found that 52 percent of Catholic Charities clients in 2006 were from below the federal poverty line—up from 43 percent in 2002.
Local Catholic Charities agencies saw a 12 percent increase in the need for food service programs in 2006. Between 2002 and 2006, the number of clients receiving food services—such as soup kitchens, food banks and food pantries, home delivered meals and congregate dining—increased by 2.7 million, or nearly 60 percent.
Almost 1.3 million New Yorkers visited food pantries, soup kitchens and similar programs in 2007, up 24 percent from 2004, according to a report prepared the Food Bank for New York City. New York's food banks have seen federal food aid drop by almost half from 2004 level.

Ross Fraser, a spokesman for America's Second Harvest — The Nation's Food Bank Network, the nation's largest hunger relief group, said Friday. ""We have food banks in virtually every city in the country, and what we are hearing is that they are all facing severe shortages with demand so high...One of our food banks in Florida said demand is up 35 percent over this time last year."

Tony Hall, vice president of the Food Bank of Southwest Georgia, estimates a 10 percent to 20 percent increase in demand for food in the 20-county area the organization serves. "...Each year the demand gets bigger and bigger."

" We've lost factory jobs and many service jobs don't pay a livable wage," said Dick Stevens, director the food and nutrition division of Hocking-Athens-Perry Community Action, in southeast Ohio. "We see a lot of desperation in families who are trying to figure out how to pay higher fuel and utility costs and still put food on the table."

Liz Carter, executive director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul food pantry in Cincinnati , said "... it's so difficult when you see the desperation and have to tell them you just don't have enough to give them what they need."

"We're bracing ourselves for a very tough winter, especially with home heating fuel prices at record highs in the Northeast," Quandt said, of the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York , "People living in poverty or near poverty just can't sustain those types of increases."

Nor is it only a food shortage crisis . It is homelessness .

Shelters are already reporting more need among households.

One shelter in Minneapolis served as many people by the end of September as in all of last year. For the first time in 10 years, a homeless shelter in Joliet, Ill., is full, said Lorri Nagle, director of development at the Catholic Charities USA agency . Requests for temporary shelters increased 24 percent over the past five years. In 2006, Catholic Charities managed more than 176 temporary shelters (nearly 7,800 beds). Yet they were unable to serve more than 31,000 people because all available beds were full.

And we are told capitalism is the system that works and satisfies needs !!

1 comment:

ajohnstone said...

One of every four children in New Mexico and Texas and one of every five in a dozen other states, live in households that struggle to provide enough food at some point during the year