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Media: More Americans Turn To Soup Kitchens

Some hard hitting, fact based, unbiased reporting from the economists at the Christian Science Monitor:

More Americans Turn to Soup Kitchens

America’s Second Harvest Is Helping More Than 25 Million People, an 8-Percent Increase Over 2001

NEW YORK, Feb. 26, 2006 — As the economy has steadily grown over the last four years, so too has the number of Americans going hungry.

America’s Second Harvest, the nation’s largest charitable-food distribution network, is now providing help to more than 25 million people, an 8-percent increase over 2001, the last time the organization did a major survey of its more than 200 food banks in all 50 states.

That increase in the number of people who are hungry or "food insecure" — Washington bureaucratese for "not sure where their next meal will come from" — is reflected in data collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as well. In 2005, it found that more than 38 million Americans lived in "hungry or food insecure" households, an increase of 5 million since 2000.

"Even though individuals may have a job, they still are having a hard time making ends meet," said Maura Daly, a spokeswoman for Second Harvest, which is based in Chicago. "We find many people have to make choices between food and other basic necessities like paying for utilities and heat."

Working, but Hungry

More than 35 percent of the people who are served by Second Harvest come from homes with at least one working adult, according to a study, which was conducted by Mathematica Policy Research. The social-policy research firm is based in Princeton, N.J. Many of those hungry are children, almost 9 million, or 31 percent. An additional 3 million of the hungry are senior citizens, about 11 percent.

"Food banks are like the canary in the mine shafts. They see trends in underreported populations long before they show up in other statistics," said Doug O’Brien, vice president for public policy and research at Second Harvest. "People access emergency-food systems because something in their household economy has gone wrong."

In other words, their incomes are not keeping up with their cost of living. And the food budget, studies have shown, is the most flexible. It can be cut with a visit to a soup kitchen, while the mortgage, rent, gas or electric bills are less fungible.

"The fact that so many working people still have to go to a soup kitchen or a food bank to make ends meet shows there’s something structurally wrong with the economy," O’Brien said. "If you work, you should be able to provide enough for your family. That’s part of the social contract we have with our citizens."

This article was posted by Steve on Monday, February 27th, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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