Friday, February 20, 2009

NYT: Newly Poor Swell Lines at Food Banks Nationwide

We've talked about this issue multiple times in the past in in fact over a year ago in [Jan 18, 2008: One Lonely Voice Agrees with Me on Food Inflation]

The January post was more about fertilizer but I touched on food banks ... how in the "richest" country on Earth we were seeing huge increases in demands at food banks... and this was when the economy was "fine"

Call your local food bank if you don't believe me, we are already seeing anecdotal stories of large drops in food donations - after all canned beans hold their value more than our disastrous dollar.
  1. Food Bank Shortage in TX
  2. Food Bank Shortage in MI
  3. Food Bank Shortage in NYC
  4. Food Bank Shortage in Washington DC
  5. Food Bank Shortage in Pittsburgh
  6. Food Bank Shortage in New Hampshire
  7. Food Bank Shortage in Minnestota
Folks, I could do every state if I wanted... you get the picture - go run a check via Google. And it's going to only get worst as the economy worsens.

I followed that up with a piece in May [May 27, 2008: Food Banks Suffering in U.S., Children Overseas See Aid Cuts]

I guess on the bright side it's not as bad as Haiti [Jan 30, 2008: Hungry Haitians Resort to Eating Dirt] But if you once again do a google search on food banks, you should be alarmed by what you see. My latest look at food stamps shows, we are up from 1 in 11 families (pre recession) to 1 in 10. This is not a "new thing" - it's been incremental and all that is happening is it's moving up the food chain to people that the media actually notices. A whole new class of people are moving into the food banks as we wrote this past November [Nov 14, 2008: Wall Street Journal - A Run on (Food) Banks] and the New York Times reports
  • Cindy Dreeszen and her husband live in one of the wealthiest counties in the United States. They have steady jobs, his at a movie theater and hers at a government office. Together, they earn about $55,000 a year. But with a 17-month-old son, another baby on the way, and, as Ms. Dreeszen put it, “the cost of everything going up and up,” the couple went to a food pantry last week to ask for some free groceries. “This is totally something that I never expected to happen, to have to resort to this.”
  • Once a crutch for the most needy, food pantries have responded to the deepening recession by opening their doors to what one pantry organizer described as “the next layer of people,” a rapidly expanding group of child-care workers, nurse’s aides, real estate agents and secretaries who are facing a financial crisis for the first time.
  • Over all, demand at food banks across the country increased by 30 percent in 2008 from the previous year, according to a survey by Feeding America, which distributes more than two billion pounds of food every year. And while pantries usually see a drop in demand after the holiday season, many in upscale suburbs this year are experiencing the opposite.
  • Here in Morris County (median household income, $82,173), the Interfaith Food Pantry added extra hours this month after seeing a 24 percent increase in customers and 45 percent increase in food distributed in November, December and January compared with the same period last year.
  • In Lake Forest, Ill., a wealthy Chicago suburb, a pantry in an Episcopal church that used to attract people from less affluent towns nearby has been flooded with people who have lost jobs.
  • In Greenwich, Conn., one pantry organizer reported a “tremendous” increase in demand for food since December, with out-of-work landscapers and housekeepers as well as real estate professionals who have not made a sale in months filling the line.
  • And amid the million-dollar houses of Marin County, Calif., a pantry at the San Geronimo Valley Community Center last month changed its policy to allow people to stop by once a week instead of every other week, since there are so many new faces in line alongside the regulars.
  • We’re seeing people who work at banks, for software firms, for marketing firms, and they’re all losing their jobs,” said Dave Cort, the executive director. “Here we are in big, fancy Marin County, but we have people who are standing in line with their eyes wide open, thinking, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m here.’ ”
  • The number of food-stamp recipients was up by 17 percent across New York State, and 12 percent in New Jersey, in November from a year before.
  • If one of our richest counties has people signing up for food stamps who have never signed up before, that indicates the depth of this problem with the lack of food,” said Kathleen DiChiara, executive director of Community FoodBank of New Jersey. “It’s the canary in the coal mine.”
  • These are people who never really had to ask for help before,” said Brenda Beavers, human services director for the Salvation Army in New Jersey, which dispenses emergency food supplies at 30 pantries throughout the state. “They were once givers and now they’re having to ask for assistance.” “They look shellshocked,” she said. “I’ve had people walk back out and say, ‘I can’t do this.’ ”
  • “Let me put it this way — it took me a long time to come here,” the woman (in her 20s) said as she added a bag of lentils to her cart. “I felt like a loser. I felt like a total lowlife.”
  • A woman wearing gold earrings and a red Vera Bradley bag over her shoulder, who is in her 50s and gave only her first name, Louise, said she had recently lost her job and has been struggling to pay her bills.
Part (not all) of this is a country where study after study shows people live paycheck to paycheck - whether they make $30K, $60K, or $200K. As they earn more, most spend every last penny in our consumption culture. When the income stream dies there is no rainy day fund. Not any different than the example shown at our federal and local governments I suppose.

Not to be preachy because some of this is just plain hardship and circumstance but for many it is simply cultural. I ask once more, why is financial literacy completely ignored in our educational system?

The "rainy day" is here, and it's not going away "in the 2nd half of 2009" or whatever such dream the pundits cling to. This is structural and generational.

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