As the holiday season approaches, some parents will flock to retailers
in search of high-tech toys for their children, while others will flock
to food pantries seeking a way to feed their families. According to
separate studies by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Catholic
Charities USA, food banks, pantries and soup kitchens nationwide report
a growing demand for food coinciding with an increasing shortage of
Based on a 2002 Census Bureau survey of 50,000 households, the USDA
estimated that 12.1 million households did not have access at all times
to enough food in order for all household members to live active,
healthy lives. This statistic represents a 0.4 percent increase over
data from 2001. The 2002 USDA report also found that on a typical day,
hunger among children occurred in 30,000 to 38,000 households. The
report found that more than half of food-insecure households surveyed
had in the previous month participated in a food-assistance program,
received emergency food from a food pantry or eaten at an emergency
Meanwhile, Catholic Charities USA recently conducted a survey of 71
agencies across the nation, many of which operate food pantries and
cupboards, and found that 66 percent reported an increased need for
food in 2003.
Due to budget cuts and a lack of government funding, many
human-services providers are struggling to meet this growing demand for
food, since those same factors, as well as an economic downturn, are
causing more people to need food and assistance.
FOODLINK, a regional food bank serving 10 counties in the Genesee
Valley and Finger Lakes regions, annually obtains and redistributes
more than 6 million pounds of food to at least 550 human-services
providers, including food pantries and soup kitchens. The demand for
food from FOODLINK’s member agencies increased 9 percent during July
2002 through June 2003, according to Jaime Wemett Saunders, vice
president of operations.
“When the economy has its ebbs and flows, you can see that also in
our meal pattern,” she said.
FOODLINK receives a portion of its food supply from America’s Second
Harvest, the largest domestic hunger-relief organization in the United
States. The organization solicits and distributes food and grocery
products through a nationwide network of food banks and food-rescue
programs, including Food Bank of the Southern Tier, which is operated
by Catholic Charities of the Southern Tier. The food bank serves more
than 180 member agencies across six counties.
“Over the past two years we’ve seen a 15- to 20-percent increase in
the demand at our agencies,” said Frank Carey, director of development
for Food Bank of the Southern Tier. “Down in this neck of the woods
there were some pretty significant layoffs and cutbacks, starting about
two years ago. What’s happening in the Southern Tier and upstate New
York is pretty consistent with what’s happening nationally.”
Sister of St. Joseph Barbara Kuhn, co-director of St. Peter’s Soup
Kitchen in Rochester, said the kitchen, which is open every weekday,
serves 39,000 meals each year. She said volunteers at the kitchen see
more people coming for meals as the holidays approach, and she has
noticed an overall increase in the past year. She believes recent
layoffs and cutbacks have put more people under financial stress and
caused more people to be homeless or hungry.
“The cuts that we have seen in the budgets do have an impact on us,”
Sister Kuhn added.