Over the last several years, food pantries and shelters have seen a sharp rise in the number of people seeking help. While the areas of the country hardest hit are also the ones most impacted by the recession, no area is immune from this trend. Urban, rural and suburban areas alike have all succumbed to the harsh realities of more people needing food assistance.
In November 2009, demand at the Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana is up 30 to 50 percent from the previous year. It is reported that one in four children in the region were struggling with hunger. Capacity issues forced food shelters to reevaluate food distribution, storage facilities, volunteers, program efficiency and financial solvency, just to name a few (The Ball State Daily News, 11/09).
Fast forward to 2010 and unfortunately, things haven’t improved for many. According to a study released in February of this year, nine percent of residents in Massachusetts were utilizing food or shelter assistance. Between 2006 and 2010, Massachusetts witnessed a 23 percent increase in the number of people using a food pantry, soup kitchen or pantry. It isn’t surprising that the homeless and elderly were most likely to need help from the food shelters in the commonwealth (WBUR 90.9FM, 02/10).
These statistics paint a picture of a very real problem in America – one that was captured in well-known report released by Feeding America. “Hunger in America 2010: A Report on Emergency Food Distribution in the United States” was the largest study of domestic hunger ever conducted, with more than 61,000 face-to-face client interviews and more than 37,000 surveys of local charitable agencies. 1
Some key findings included: 2
• Each week, approximately 5.7 million people receive emergency food assistance from an agency served by a Feeding America member. This is a 27percent increase over numbers reported in Hunger in America 2006, which reported that 4.5 million people were served each week.
• 76 percent (10 million) of client households served are food insecure, meaning they do not always know where they will find their next meal.
• 36 percent of these client households are experiencing food insecurity with hunger, meaning they are sometimes completely without a source of food.
• Many of the client households served by Feeding America food banks report that their household incomes are inadequate to cover their basic household expenses.
- 46 percent of client households served report having to choose between paying for utilities or heating fuel and food.
- 39 percent of client households said they had to choose between paying for rent or a mortgage and food.
- 34 percent of client households report having to choose between paying for medical bills and food.
- 35 percent of client households must choose between transportation and food.
[Photo: Kolton Saulsbury, center, Henry Loudermilk and others load boxes filled with cans and dry food Thursday. Texarkana, Ark., Drug Court participants donated 162 pounds of food to Randy Sams Shelter for the Homeless as part of their probation. Taxarkana Gazzette]
But is there any temporary relief in sight? The answer appears to be: YES!
The federal government is reporting some good news that might help people a little bit more, that the cost of food is going down. The food index declined in July, largely due to the fourth consecutive decline in the fruits and vegetables index. The overall cost for food, however, during the preceding twelve months ending July-2010 remains 0.9 percent higher than last year. 4
In the meantime, linking people to available food pantries and shelters is critically important to reducing the number of Americans who are “food insecure” in America. One such resource, The Shelters & Soup Kitchens Directory, contains links to online shelter & feeding resources, especially for homeless populations. But our effort doesn’t stop there!
We have joined, will you? Learn more at http://www.wemovement.org/.
1. Feeding America, “Hunger in America 2010: A Report on Emergency Food Distribution in the United States,” January 2010.
2. Feeding America, “Hunger in America 2010: A Report on Emergency Food Distribution in the United States,” Executive Summary’s Key Findings, January 2010.
3. Feeding America, “Hunger in America 2010: A Report on Emergency Food Distribution in the United States,” Executive Summary’s Key Findings, January 2010.
4. United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Price Index, July 2010.