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Sign of the Times: USDA Report Shows Significant Increase of Food Insecurity Among the Working Poor – the New Hungry

PHILADELPHIA — Nov. 17, 2009 – A report released by U.S. Department of Agriculture last week examined Household Food Security in 2008, showed that 49 million Americans struggled with getting enough food to eat. This figure marks a staggering 36 percent increase over 2007, when about 36 million people were food insecure.

The increase of 13 million Americans who went from having enough food to seeking food aid exceeds Pennsylvania’s population by 500,000. Of the 49 million people experiencing food insecurity, about 20.5 million or 42 percent were people living just above the federal poverty level at or above 130 percent. In other words, for a family of four it equates to making an income of between $29,000 and $40,000 annually. The new face of hunger is the working poor.

What the report indicates is that the number of working families at risk of hunger has grown at double the rate than the chronically poor. The recession has driven more working people to seek out food aid, most of whom living just above the poverty level are ineligible to receive food stamps.

“The USDA report confirms what we already knew and what other food banks have experienced in the past year,” says Bill Clark, the hunger relief organization’s president and executive director. “Calls from people seeking food assistance are up by 242 percent from this same time last year, and our network of agencies throughout the Delaware Valley has seen an increase in demand for food go up 35 percent.”

In May of this year, Philabundance, the Delaware Valley’s largest hunger relief organization, launched its Emergency Relief Initiative (ERI) in a major step to improving access the community has to emergency food in the face of escalating need, primarily through a new Food Help Line, 800-319-Food (3663) and Emergency Food Boxes (EBox), while increasing the amount of food going into the community through expanded programs like Fresh For All, and new programs like the Emergency Food Box. Philabundance’s ERI has widened the safety net for people in this recession by getting more food to more people when they need it.

“National and state unemployment rates are at the highest in 26 years, which means many people are just a few paychecks away of needing food,” says Bill Clark. “The imperative to widen the safety net for the more than 900,000 people in the region at risk of hunger has never been greater.”

For anyone in need of food aid or who knows someone seeking emergency food, Philabundance’s Food Help Line – 800-319-Food (3663) – is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Anyone interested in helping those in need can visit Philabundance’s website –www.philabundance.org – to find out about holding a food drive, volunteering, attending an event or making a financial contribution.

For more information about Philabundance call 215-339-0900 or visit www.philabundance.org.

Philabundance is the region’s largest hunger relief organization fighting hunger and malnutrition in the communities in the Delaware Valley. Philabundance provides a full plate of services to close to 600 member agencies in 10 counties, who serve approximately 900,000 low income residents. Philabundance provides food to approximately 65,000 people per week, at an aggregate cost of less than 30 cents per meal. In 2008, Philabundance, distributed 17 million pounds of food in the Delaware Valley. For more information about Philabundance, call 215-339-0900 or visit www.philabundance.org.

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