Memphis not immune to national hunger trends, Food Bank says

By Ben Watson - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A study released Tuesday revealed more than 37 million people received emergency food from food banks last year.

Feeding America, a hunger-relief organization, released its report, "Hunger in America 2010," which details the connection between the recession and an increased need for emergency food assistance.

According to the report, an estimated 5.7 million people across the country receive emergency food assistance each week - a 27 percent increase from 2006.

Among the participating agencies in the report was The Mid-South Food Bank, whose president and CEO, Susan Sanford, said Memphis has not been immune to the national trend.

"Donations of food are down," she said.

Down, according to Sanford, because many of the same people who were listed as donors when the study was conducted four years ago are now unable to give like they used to

"One of the things we found is throughout the country some people who were contributors two years ago are standing in line to get emergency food this year," Sanford said.

More than 186,000 people received emergency food assistance through the network of food agencies served by the Mid-South Food Bank.  Now, with more and more families going through economic hardships, the large demand for food has outgrown the amount being donated...

"The saddest thing to me is 60,000 of those people are children," Sanford said.

Data for the study was obtained through face to face interviews with nearly 400 people who asked for emergency food.

"The largest number of people had to make a choice between buying food and paying for their utilities, and that was 83 percent this time, and it was only 42 percent last time," Sanford said.

Food bank officials say there is only one solution to the food shortage is increased donations of food and money.  In fact, according to Sanford, financial donations are always welcome because staffers have a system in place that enables them to buy food at a cheaper cost.

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