July 22, 2009

Funding from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act has significantly increased the amount of food purchased by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for distribution to food banks throughout the nation in an effort to support the growing needs of the nation's hungry, many of whom are accessing emergency food assistance for the first time.

In a recent survey, Feeding America food bank respondents reported an average increase of 30 percent in requests for emergency food assistance over a year prior.

"The recent increase in high-protein and nutrient-rich food that the USDA has made available through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) to our food banks has been desperately needed," said Vicki Escarra, president and CEO of Feeding America, the nation's largest domestic hunger relief organization.

Stories from around the country demonstrate just how much the food made available through the economic recovery legislation is helping bring relief to low-income Americans. Betty Deems, director of the The Ministries of the Bread of Life Food Pantry in Winterville, North Carolina says,"In my 19 years as the director of this food pantry, I have never seen the need for food as great as it is right now. Without programs like TEFAP and food stamps and other (programs), small agencies like ours would fail to meet the needs that are before us every day."

"Even now it is beyond us to help many -- and we fear what will become of them, as well as more (who) are facing hardships beyond what they can manage, to feed their families… it has become very frightening," said Deems."With the help of these programs, we will do our very best to help those in need. Without these programs, we will fall far short of reaching many children -- and this is one of our great fears -- that children in America… will go hungry for the lack of programs that will make all the difference in their lives. Please don`t let this happen."

Vicki Escarra said,"Feeding America food banks distributed more than 2.5 billion pounds of food during the last 12 months. That sounds like an enormous amount of food, but we need even more food to help close the gap. Food pantries that once fed 50 families a week are now feeding 100. Families will spend hours waiting in line for a single bag of groceries."

"We are extremely grateful to the Administration, Congress and USDA for their efforts to help us provide meals to the millions of Americans who just can't make ends meet right now. We are also most grateful to the hundreds of private donors who have helped increase our food supply in this time of crisis. Unfortunately, even more help is needed," said Escarra.

Feeding America estimates that federal commodities will account for about a quarter of the food the organizations' 205 food banks distribute to approximately 70,000 soup kitchens, food pantries and emergency shelters in all fifty states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico this year.

Feeding America released a new report, Child Food Insecurity: The Economic Impact On Our Nation, on July 1. The report explores the consequences of child hunger in America. It is available at www.feedingamerica.org/recovery


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