Who goes hungry Second Harvest survey: Food banks seeing increase in demand from working families.

March 11, 1998

IT IS a sad fact of life in modern America that groups such as the Maryland Food Bank serve an essential role seeing that available food gets to hungry people.

A survey by Second Harvest, a national network of 185 food banks, indicates that even with a strong economy, food banks are needed more than ever. It suggests hunger could become an even bigger and more visible problem if welfare reform begins to eliminate people from the rolls before they are financially self-sufficient, or if the economy slumps badly.

The survey, released this week, found that food bank agencies reach more than 25 million people each year, many of them more than once, through food pantries, soup kitchens and emergency shelters. They are seeing increasing numbers of two-parent families that, before a layoff or illness or car accident, considered themselves middle class.

Second Harvest can distribute only a fraction of the food provided by federal programs. But many of the same people who benefit from government programs also depend on private aid. Yet almost half of Second Harvest agencies report that in the past year they have had to ration or limit food to serve all their clients, in some cases as often as once a month.

The message Second Harvest brings is uplifting yet sobering. Its agencies illustrate every day how much can be accomplished by dedicated groups that depend heavily on volunteers. But despite a booming economy, there seems to be no end to the needs they are trying to fill.

Pub Date: 3/11/98

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