November 17, 2008

USDA reported today that 36.2 million Americans, including 12.4 million children, are food insecure. The Study paints a stark picture of the pervasiveness of hunger in our nation. But Feeding America, the nation's leading hunger-relief organization, warns that the actual number of Americans forced to skip meals and survive without adequate nutrition is even greater today, prompting a national appeal for help in feeding hungry men, women and children.

"It is important to note that the USDA numbers released today are 2007 figures and do not take into account the unprecedented economic crisis that our country is currently facing," said Vicki Escarra, president and CEO of Feeding America."While the numbers reported are tragic, our network typically experiences trends as direct service providers before they are officially reported. We believe that this is just the beginning of a downward trend and we expect things to get worse before they get better.

"We serve more than 200 food banks that provide food to the vast majority of food pantries, soup kitchens, and emergency feeding centers across the country – more than 63,000 in total,"added Escarra."These are faith-based organizations, community centers, mobile food pantries set up in parking lots, where more than four million people stand in line every week for just a few bags of groceries to help feed themselves and their families. While emergency food assistance is vital to helping people who have to make tough choices between food and other basic necessities, it's often times barely enough to make ends meet. We see increases in the number of people in need at the end of the month when our clients have run out of food stamp benefit and spent their meager income on paying necessary bills."

"Our food banks are calling us every day, telling us that demand for emergency food is higher than it has ever been in our history. They are serving a significant number of new clients – people who were once their donors, middle class workers who can no longer make ends meet, many of the half-million people who have lost their jobs in just the past two months as unemployment has climbed to 6.5 percent," Escarra said.

Last spring, Feeding America conducted a research study to determine increased need. Across the board, food banks were witnessing an average increased need of nearly 20 percent. In many areas, the percentages were doubled over the previous timeframe in 2007.

"If the data we are reviewing today reflected food insecurity data from the last 12 months, it would be even more shocking," said Escarra."Unemployment rates and healthcare costs continue to soar, and there is not an end expected in near sight. The number of middle class working families seeking food is where we are seeing the most growth. We don't expect the lines to get any shorter at local food pantries anytime soon, and we won't know how bad it really is until the future USDA numbers is released next year."

"Hungry Americans and food banks are desperately in need of relief from Congress in an economic recovery package. Food stamp benefits must be increased to enable low-income Americans to purchase adequate food which is a direct economic benefit to the economy. Additionally, food banks inventories are unable to keep pace with the skyrocketing demands for emergency food assistance. We urge Congress to allocate additional dollars for the purchase, storage and transportation of USDA commodities to ensure that our Network is able to continue feeding the millions of additional people in need right now as a result of a weakening economy."


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