January 15, 2009

The House Appropriations Committee just released an initial version of the long-awaited economic recovery package that fails to meet the needs of hungry Americans by neglecting to provide funds to the nation's emergency feeding network. Feeding America (formerly named America's Second Harvest), a network of 205 food banks and the nation's largest hunger-relief organization, is calling upon Congress to make a $300 million investment for emergency food assistance programs to ensure that food banks can keep pace with the highest levels of demands that they have ever seen.

"It is tragic that this legislation ignores the emergency food needs of millions of people affected by the faltering economy .This package contains many positive provisions that will help our economy begin to recover, but the House Committee must keep in mind that food banks nationwide are reporting a 30 percent increase, on average, in the number of people turning to them to help put food on their table. Many of the people we see are recently unemployed and do not currently qualify for food stamps, or are waiting for benefits to be approved," said Vicki Escarra, president and chief executive officer of Feeding America."Our food banks are seeing unprecedented numbers of people coming to food pantries across the country, and their shelves are becoming emptier by the day. We cannot continue to feed millions of additional men, women and children who are turning to us, often for the first time, without more support from the federal government. Americans are going hungry, and we are in a crisis."

In a recent survey, food banks around the nation reported that the primary factors contributing to the increased need were unemployment and rising food prices. The 30 percent average increase in people seeking help is nearly double the increase that food banks reported just six months ago.

"Food banks are on the front lines feeding people, so they typically experience emerging economic trends before they show up in national data," said Escarra."The lines at the food pantries and soup kitchens have grown longer and longer this past year, and unfortunately, we expect to see more and more hungry people coming to us for help as unemployment rates continue to climb. The December survey of food banks also reported that more than 70 percent of food banks are presently unable to adequately meet the needs of their communities, and are cutting back the amount of food they are making available to agencies, including soup kitchens, food pantries and emergency shelters."

"We are heartened by President-elect Obama's longtime commitment to fighting hunger in America, and his renewed sense of commitment in his pledge to end child hunger by 2015. The Economic Recovery legislation is the first opportunity for a new President and new Congress to make progress toward eliminating hunger. If we can afford more than $300 billion to bail out banks, surely we can afford $300 million to help our food banks," Escarra said.


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