As the US slowly recovers from the most crippling recession in decades and the unemployment rate continues to hover around 9%, more Americans than ever since the Great Depression are having trouble putting food on the table. In record numbers, children, seniors and the working poor have joined the ranks of those more traditionally associated with food insecurity … the unemployed, the infirm, the disabled, and so on.
People who thought they’d always have a job or other source of income and would never need a helping hand now find they too are in need of food assistance. How could this happen in America, the wealthiest country on earth? The harsh reality is that times have changed, and radically.
In 2009, Feeding America, the national food bank network, conducted the largest, most comprehensive study ever of hunger in the US. Food banks across the country, including the Food Bank for Westchester, participated in the study. The results, published in Hunger in America 2010 are sobering.
Like the Food Bank for Westchester, food banks across the country are stepping up to meet the growing need. But the demands for food assistance have increased dramatically in recent years. In 2009, the Food Bank for Westchester had a 30% rise in demand for emergency food assistance; in 2010, the demand rose again by another 10%. We saw a rise in demand for other services also: SNAP (food stamp) applications quadrupled, and the BackPack Program, through which we supply weekend food for children, has increased to 36 sites serving over 1,700 children.
The Food Bank for Westchester has begun to meet the challenge for expanded services by relocating to a larger facility in Elmsford in early 2012. This larger space will enable us to greatly increase the amount of food we can distribute and the services we can provide. We are grateful that we are supported by a generous network of volunteers, donors and other supporters to accomplish our goals.