Food pantries are seeing more repeat users, and a new study, “Food Banks: Hunger’s New Staple“, says it reflects a shift from emergency food assistance to chronic. More Americans are depending on food pantries and other charitable food services to feed themselves and their families according to the study by Feeding America.
Mara Daly, chief communication and program officer for Feeding America, says the pantries are being used to fill monthly shortfalls in food. She says emergency food is no longer being used to meet temporary food needs. She says a majority of their clients are visiting regularly to supplement what appear to be monthly shortfalls in food.
Daly says the majority of clients are frequent users. The elderly population tends to need services on a more frequent basis. She says well over half of the seniors they serve are long term recurrent users, suggesting fixed incomes of seniors in America may be insufficient to provide for basic food needs.
Daly says they are also serving people who are receiving benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps). She says this indicates benefits are not lasting through the entire month. She says with higher food prices, many clients are finding their benefits will not stretch as far as they did a year ago.
In addition to higher food prices, Daly says lingering unemployment is another part of the problem. She says the food network has been over burdened since the recession started a few years ago and they don’t see any real relief in the near future.
Daly says this chronic use comes at the same time that food banks have seen a reduction in commodities being donated through government programs and corporation donors, and an increase in the total number of people seeking assistance of any kind. She says that need is at an all time high in recent history. People can learn ways to help by visiting feedingamerica.org.