November 16, 2009

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service (USDA) reported today that 49 million Americans, including nearly 17 million children, are food insecure. The 2009 report on Household Food Insecurity in the United States paints an alarming picture of the pervasiveness of hunger in our nation.

This is an increase of 36 percent over the numbers released one year by the USDA, which found that 36.2 million American were at risk of hunger."It is tragic that so many people in this nation of plenty don't have access to adequate amounts of nutritious food," said Vicki Escarra, president and CEO of Feeding America."Although these new numbers are staggering, it should be noted that these numbers reflect the state of the nation one year ago, in 2008. Since then, the economy has significantly weakened, and there are likely many more people struggling with hunger than this report states.

The new data reinforces recent findings from a research study conducted by Feeding America, the nation's leading hunger-relief organization, reflecting a dramatic increase in requests for emergency food assistance from food banks across the country.

Conducted in September, the Feeding America study shows that its network food banks experienced an average increase in need of nearly 30 percent this year. While the numbers vary geographically, some food banks are reporting increases of more than 50 percent in requests for emergency food assistance over a year prior.

"National socio-economic indicators, including the escalating unemployment rate and the number of working-poor, lead us to believe that the number of people facing hunger will continue to rise significantly over the coming year," added Escarra."Research on previous economic recessions indicates that people who fall into the grips of poverty in a time of recession do not recover financially. Many of those people are likely to be in need of our services now or in the future.

"Feeding America's 200 food banks continue to work on the front lines feeding more than 25 million people each year, through our country's food pantries, soup kitchens, and emergency feeding centers – more than 63,000 agencies in total," said Escarra."These establishments, many of which are grass root and faith based centers operated solely by volunteers, serve as an oasis for the more than 4 million people who seek relief weekly to help feed themselves and their families. Emergency food assistance is a critical link in the nation's response chain to help people through times of crisis."

Escarra observes,"Our network food banks are calling us every day, telling us that demand for emergency food is higher than it has ever been in our history. Feeding America will continue to work closely with our partners at USDA to ensure that the public and charitable sectors are keeping pace – as best we can – with the dramatically increasing needs for food assistance."


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