U.S. food banks raise alarm as drought dents government supplies
(Reuters) - The worst U.S. drought in more than half a century has weakened the safety net for the 50 million Americans who struggle to get enough to eat, and the nation's food banks are raising the alarm as the holiday season gets into full swing. Demand for food assistance - unrelenting as the U.S. economy slowly recovers from the worst recession since the Great Depression - ticks higher during the winter holidays.
This summer's crop-damaging weather in the U.S. farm belt has driven up costs for everything from grain to beef. That means higher prices at the grocery store, but it also means the U.S. government has less need to buy key staples like meat, peanut butter, rice and canned fruits and vegetables to support agricultural prices and remove surpluses.
Most of the products from those government purchases are sent to U.S. food banks, which then distribute them to food pantries, soup kitchens and emergency shelters that are a lifeline for people who struggle with hunger - including low-income families, senior citizens and people with disabilities.
The decline in government donations is exacerbating the pain inflicted by stubbornly high unemployment and a lack of income growth for many low-wage workers.
"People have been coping with economic distress for a really, really, really long time ... After several years of tapping all the resources we have, we're starting to see that we're coming up short," said Carrie Calvert, director of tax and commodity policy at Feeding America, the nation's largest hunger relief organization.
NO KID HUNGRY LINK
FEEDING AMERICA'S CHILDREN
Start a local Blessings in a Backpack group. Contact Blessings in a Backpack (1-800-USA-4FOOD) for materials and info on how to get started in your community. Then research local schools with free/reduced price meal programs, and identify local supporters to raise funds to help buy food at a discount. Just $80 provides one child with backpacks full of food for a year! Once you have your volunteers and funds, call Blessings and they'll help you set up your program.
Donate to food banks. If you can't spare the time to start a program, donate directly to Blessings, your local community food bank, or Feeding America, the national umbrella group of food banks. Donating canned goods is helpful, but money is even more so, says Berg. "These groups can buy food at a discount, so where you can buy one can of food with your dollar, they can buy three."
Support national legislative efforts to end hunger. You can urge your senators and representatives to support expanded access to the programs at Feeding America's Hunger Action Center.
If you understand, things are just as they are; if you do not understand, things are just as they are.