To combat hunger, more in US turn to soup kitchens
America's Second Harvest is helping to more than 25 million
people, an 8 percent increase over 2001.
By Christian Science Monitor
-- -- NEW YORK As the economy has steadily grown
over the past four years, so too has the number of Americans
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 US Department of Agriculture as well. In 2005, it found 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," says 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."
More than 35 percent of the people who are served by Second
Harvest come from homes with at least one working adult,
according to the study, which was conducted by Mathematica
Policy Research, a social-policy research firm based in
Princeton, N.J. And many of those hungry are children, almost 9
million, or 31 percent. Another 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," says 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
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," says Mr. O'Brien. "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."
www.csmonitor.com | Copyright © 2006 The Christian Science
Monitor. All rights reserved
(In accordance with Title 17
U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to
those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the
included information for research and educational purposes.
Information Clearing House has no affiliation whatsoever with the
originator of this article nor is Information Clearing House
endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)