The deepening recession is prompting hunger relief organization Feeding America to speed up its current development plan by two years to meet demand for its services, Reuters reports.
According to Feeding America president and CEO Vicki Escarra, the organization, which changed its name from America's Second Harvest last fall, now intends to meet its 2012 target of distributing 2.95 billion pounds of food and serving 30 million Americans by 2010. Through the first seven months of the organization's 2009 fiscal year, which ends in June, the organization had distributed about 1.4 billion pounds of food and raised $56.3 million, putting it on target to surpass its 2009 goals by 20 percent and 30 percent, respectively. The organization's success is due in part to an increase in donations of money and food from individuals and corporations, including Wal-Mart, Kraft Foods, General Mills, and Kroger.
The organization already collects food from some 3,500 U.S. retailers and is working to increase that number to 10,000 over the next two years. A program to collect food from every Wal-Mart store, for example, could provide approximately one million pounds of food annually. The organization also has increased its efforts to raise public awareness of hunger and is pushing for better tax credits for companies that donate food as well as the reauthorization of an act that provides free and reduced-cost food programs for children.
Succeeding in these efforts is imperative, Escarra said, because demand is rising along with the unemployment rate. Nearly 32 million Americans, or about 10 percent of the population, used food stamps in December — the highest number ever — while unemployment, at 8.1 percent, is expected to rise in the coming months. Demand for services at foodbanks has increased by about 30 percent, with more than half that increase due to first-time users.
"We are planning on accelerating the five-year plan by two years," said Escarra. "In essence, we plan to get that one billion pounds of new food by 2010 just to meet the demand. We don't have a choice."