Food Kitchens, Shelters Fill Gap Left by Food Stamps

Food Kitchens, Shelters Fill Gap Left by Food Stamps

A new study commissioned by America's Second Harvest, a national network of nonprofit food banks that provides 80 percent of all food distributed by private charities, finds that more people in the United States are turning to food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters for food each year than participate in the federal government's food stamp program, the New York Times reports.

The report, "Hunger in America 2001," found that 23.3 million people, roughly nine percent of all Americans, receive food from private organizations at some point during the year. A similar survey in 1997 found that 21.4 million Americans used private food charity at some point during the year.

According to an Agriculture Department survey, the number of people using food stamps has fallen from 21.9 million to 17.7 million over the last six years. Congress is currently debating a bill that includes the reauthorization of the food stamp program and may increase the program's financing by as much as $10 billion. The Second Harvest study found that people receiving food stamps made up nearly one-third of those seeking food from private organizations and that their food stamps cover only about half of their monthly food needs. It also found that 40 percent of the people receiving food aid are members of working families, and that nearly half of households receiving aid include children.

"We think there is no substitute for a strong food stamp program," said Rev. David Beckman, president of Bread for the World, a nondenominational religious organization that advocates government action to address hunger. "It is much better for kids to have their Mom and Dad serve them food around the table rather than drag them into a food kitchen. And I'm not sure we churches, synagogues, and mosques can keep up with the demand."

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Elizabeth Becker. "Shift From Food Stamps to Private Aid Widens" New York Times 11/13/2001.