Saturday, February 06, 2010

In Case You Needed More Evidence

How many times around the block would a line of 40,000 people go?  That's a hypothetical question, of course.  But that figure of 40,000 is real.

An article in this morning's Albuquerque Journal, which quotes the New Mexico Association of Food Banks, reports that 40,000 people rely on the local community or church pantry to get food assistance each week.  (If you have an online or a delivered subscription to the Journal, you can access the article with this link). 
That's more than the population of some cities in New Mexico.  Imagine if the entire population of Farmington or Alamogordo required food assistance every week!

NMAFB director Kathy Komoll said the figures are especially worrisome because an increasing number of children and elderly in our state are requiring food assistance.

Furthermore, she noted, the figure of 40,000 may not reflect the full extent of emergency food needs in our state.  Even though 40,000 people are being served, there are others who are going to be turned away. There are pantries that run out of food halfway through the month, said Ms. Komoll.

On top of that, the New Mexico Human Services Department said more than 142,000 New Mexicans were using food stamps in December 2009, a 30 percent increase from December 2008. 

The NMAFB arrived at the figure of 40,000 based on interviews with 450 people seeking food assistance and 450 food providers.   The association compiled the statistics as part of its contribution to the Hunger in America 2010 report, published by Feeding America (formerly known as America's Second Harvest). 

Here's a short description:
Hunger in America 2010 is the largest study of domestic hunger, providing comprehensive and statistically-valid data on our emergency food distribution system and the people Feeding America serves. Hunger in America 2010 is extremely detailed, drawing on data from more than 61,000 interviews with clients and surveys of 37,000 feeding agencies.

The report shows that hunger is increasing at an alarming rate in the United States, and our network is expanding its reach in response
The problem is staggering, and we can help by contributing time or money to our local food banks.  But perhaps you already volunteer many hours and already give a significant donation.

There are other systemic ways to address hunger and poverty in our country.  One such way is the 2010 Bread for the World Offering of Letters, which seeks to expand tax breaks for the working poor, especially the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit.  Changes in these programs could make huge difference in the amount of money that low-income people have available to meet their basic needs.   (Check out a previous post in the Bread for the World New Mexico blog, which contains a couple of videos)

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