Charitable groups having difficulties in filling orders
Donations to many of the nation’s food banks are not keeping pace with growing demand as the sour economy forces more people to seek help, charitable organizations say.
“We have seen a 100 percent increase in demand in the last year, and food donations have dropped precipitously,” said Dana Wilkie of the Community Food Bank in Fresno, Calif. The group, which distributes food to 200 food pantries and feeding centers, is supplying cheaper chickens instead of turkeys for Thanksgiving, she said.
Nationally, donations are up about 18 percent, but demand has grown by 25 percent to 40 percent, said Vicki Escarra of Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief charity. Feeding America, formerly called America’s Second Harvest, has a network of 206 food banks that supplied food to more than 25 million people a year before the recent surge.
About 70 percent of new clients are making their first visit to a food bank, Escarra says. The problem is spreading:
• In Knoxville, Tenn., “What we’re seeing now is very scary for us,” said Elaine Streno of Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee, which supplies food to 300 agencies in 18 counties. “Our community is very generous, but when you don’t have it, you can’t give it.”
• The New Hampshire Food Bank in Manchester has distributed 4.6 million pounds of food to 370 agencies statewide so far this year, up from 3.7 million pounds over the same period in 2007.
• In Peoria, Ill., demand is up by 50 percent for many of the 125 agencies in eight counties served by the Peoria Area Food Bank, and some people waiting in line for food were once volunteers, said director Barb Shreves.
FoodLink for Tulare County in California had asked the public to provide holiday meals for 5,000 needy area families – but 9,200 families already have applied. Food supplies are down 45 percent from a year ago, and demand is up 30 percent.
Executive director Sandy Beals has had to turn hungry people away, and “I cry every time.”