[Marxism] Hunger in America

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Mar 10 11:41:56 MDT 2009

Breaking the Banks
The Struggle to Feed America's Nouveau Needy
By Nick Turse

The message is simple. Ever more Americans need food they can't afford. 
As tough economic times take their toll, increasing numbers of Americans 
are on tightened budgets and, in some cases, facing outright hunger. As 
a result, they may be learning a lot more about food banks and soup 
kitchens than most of them ever wanted to know.

In recent interviews with TomDispatch.com, representatives from food 
banks -- the non-profit organizations that distribute groceries to those 
in need via food pantries, shelters, and soup kitchens -- expressed 
alarm at the recent surge in need all across the country. At the same 
time, most stated that, however counterintuitive it might seem, 
financial contributions to their organizations are actually on the rise. 
So, too, are food prices, however -- and donations, unfortunately, are 
not keeping up with demand.

Food bank representatives agree on one thing: the need for their 
services is spiking in a way none of them can recall. Again and again, 
they emphasize that lines at food pantries are growing longer, seemingly 
by the month, and that those in line are younger and often more middle 
class than ever before.

Families who just months ago didn't even know what a food bank was and 
would never have considered visiting a food pantry now have far more 
intimate knowledge of both. Embarrassed to approach institutions that 
they previously identified with the poor and indigent, many, say food 
bank officials, are also waiting far too long to seek aid. Other 
formerly middle class Americans who have never dealt with, or even 
thought about, food insecurity before simply don't know whom to call or 
where to turn.

These points echo a December 2008 survey conducted by Feeding America, a 
national hunger-relief charity. Its network of more than 200 food banks 
in all 50 states distributes more than two billion pounds of donated 
groceries annually to 63,000 local charitable agencies. Its survey found 
that, of 160 food banks, 99.4% of them reported seeing more first-time 
users in 2008.

For America's food banks this has meant one thing: that they, too, are 
needier. They need ever more fresh food, non-perishable food, and 
non-food items like cleaning products and toiletries from wholesalers, 
retailers, food distributors, corporations, charities, government 
agencies, local farms, and individual donors. They need ever more 
storage and freezer space. They need ever more volunteers. They need 
ever more food that can be made available on appointed distribution days 
at food pantries. And they need ever more emergency food supplies, 
available on demand for people who suddenly realize that they are hungry 
and out of options, possibly for the first time in their lives.


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