Hunger—now called “food insecurity” in government-speak, is a growing problem across the United States, but one that conflicts with our national self-image
As he was researching Breadline USA, Sacramento-based investigative journalist Sasha Abramsky decided he should experience for himself exactly the sorts of no-win choices that confront someone on a low and limited income. Drafting a budget for a single person working at a full-time job paying $8.23 per hour, Abramsky found he would have only $50 per week to spend on food, unless something went wrong, as inevitably happens. Ultimately, he concluded, it was simply not possible to survive without outside assistance.
One way the government has deflected attention from the growing numbers of underfed families and children in the country, says Abramsky, is by redefining hunger as “food insecurity.”
Read a sample from Breadline USA here.
Last summer, the food bank issued the following press release, citing the dramatically increased demand for food that they have been attempting to serve.
Amount of Food Distributed by REFB Up 32 Percent Since Recession
SANTA ROSA, July 29 – The amount of food distributed by the Redwood Empire Food Bank has increased more than 32 percent in Sonoma County since the nation’s recession began two years ago.
The increase was even greater in several parts of the county. Food distributions were up 66 percent in Healdsburg, 63 percent in Cloverdale, 43 percent in Rohnert Park/Cotati and 42 percent in Sonoma Valley.
The increase in food distributions is based on year-end calculations made earlier this month at the close of fiscal 2008-09.
The accounting shows that the REFB distributed the equivalent of 8,154,193 meals during fiscal year 2008-09 in Sonoma County, a 32.3 percent increase over the 6,165,415 meals the REFB distributed to people in need during fiscal 2006-07.
The increase in need is showing up in all of the hunger relief programs the REFB supports or operates. Two programs for children showed significant increases in just the past year.
Gail Atkins, Director of Programs at the REFB, said there was a 21 percent increase in the number of After School Snacks served low-income children throughout the county during fiscal 2008-09. She said the REFB provided 248,050 nutritious snacks – 43,000 more than the year before – to youngsters at Boys and Girls Clubs, recreation centers, schools and other youth centers that criss-cross the county, from Petaluma north to Cloverdale and Sonoma Valley west to Bodega Bay.
Atkins also said summer lunches distributed in June through the REFB’s annual Every Child, Every Day – Summer Hunger Initiative jumped 18 percent over the previous June..
Economists generally agree the nation slipped into the current recession following the first two quarters of 2007-08.
David Goodman, executive director of the REFB, said the numbers don’t come as a big surprise but are nonetheless shocking.
“We knew that people needed more help as the economy tanked, jobs were lost, home foreclosures increased,” said Goodman. “So, seeing this huge jump in the numbers was anticipated.”
“Nonetheless, we distributed food for almost 2 million more meals than we did two years ago,” he said. “That so many people are under such stress to feed themselves and their families is shocking, but at the same time we’re gratified by the fact that the food bank and other hunger relief programs in the county are able to respond.”
Based on annual food distributions, the REFB projected two years ago that the food bank and 133 partner agencies provide food to 60,000 Sonoma County residents each month.
“Now, every indication shows that the numbers are significantly larger,” he said. “More people need help.”
The REFB is nearing the end of its annual three-month summer food and cash drive.
Goodman said the REFB got a big boost in nonperishable food supplies in May when North Bay mail carriers collected more than 150,000 lbs. of canned and packaged food, a third of which went on REFB’s warehouse shelves.
“But that food is now gone,” said Goodman. “So, we need all the help the community can give us.”
The REFB is the largest food bank serving the North Coast of California from Sonoma County to Oregon.
In addition to providing hunger relief in Sonoma County, the REFB is the primary resource for food pantries and other hunger relief agencies in Lake, Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties.
For more information, call David Goodman, 523-7900.