Food pantries all over the nation are facing shortages in the millions of pounds this holiday season.
America's Second Harvest is urgently calling for national support to raise funds to help millions of Americans facing hunger during the holiday season.
America's Second Harvest and the people served by food banks from coast to coast are facing a potential crisis. We are projecting an immediate food shortage of 15 million pounds -- the equivalent of more than 400 truckloads or 11.7 million meals -- by the end of the year.
While the need for food grows, the donations from corporations and the government have dwindled, leaving food banks in dire straits.
The ailing economy and rising food and fuel prices are taking a toll on struggling families' budgets. Moms and dads face impossible decisions like whether to pay to heat their homes and keep their children warm or buy groceries to feed them. When they find themselves in desperate need, they turn to our network and the agencies we serve for help. Right now many of our member food banks and food-rescue organizations are seeing an increase in demand, as high as 20% in areas including Denver, Orlando and Phoenix.
We're talking not only about the unemployed, seniors, and the homeless, but also about working people who cannot adequately feed their families with their wages. There are something like 35 million people in this country considered to be "food insecure"--that is, people who cannot be sure that they'll have enough food in the immediate future. Nearly 13 million of these are children.
Why the shortage?
According to Gerry Brisson, vice president for development at Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan,
the food shortage comes primarily as a result of more efficient processing by the food companies, resulting in fewer mistakes and overruns. These overruns have accounted for the bulk of food sent to food banks.
“And their margins are tighter, too, so they’ve got to be more efficient for their business’ sake,” Brisson said.
For Gleaners, the drop in donations has been significant: 35% since January. "Just-in-time" inventories mean less waste for food manufacturers, who now tailor their production to sophisticated inventory and delivery systems.
In addition, the federal government has not been providing the amount of food it once did:
America's Second Harvest, the country's largest hunger relief organization, assisting some 50,000 providers, said federal donations to food banks have been stagnant since 2002. According to Satterwhite, Mississippi Food Network said USDA commodities represent about 60 percent of his network's food distribution to state outlets.
Some organizations have been hit hard by declines in a separate federal program that buys excess crops like peaches and potatoes from farmers and then donates them to food banks. Those donations shrunk to 89 million pounds in 2004 from 251 million pounds in 2003, according to Vermont Foodbank.
And as if all that isn't bad enough for those who depend on food banks, the current Farm Bill is stalled in the Senate. That bill authorizes funding for nutrition and food assistance programs for low-income people.
All in all, it's a looming crisis. How shameful that in the United States we have people going hungry.
Please help if you can. You can donate to America's Second Harvest here, or locate a local food bank you'd like to help here. And please consider visiting the Hunger Action Center to urge your elected officials to support food-assistance and nutrition legislation.