food banks, food donations
Elaine Thompson/AP
A student gets groceries at the University District Food Bank.

Food Banks Starved for Holiday Donations

December 10, 2008 10:32 AM
by Isabel Cowles
Food banks across the country are reporting a decline in donations, despite increased need at the holidays.

Banking on Holiday Donations

This holiday season, even the most charitable organizations may not be able to help those in need. Food bank donations tend to increase during the holidays, which is also when demand is greatest. However, because of the struggling economy, more families require help this year, and fewer people are able to give it.

In Michigan, food pantries are concerned that they will not have enough food to last through the holidays—let alone the months following.

Angela Mayeaux, executive director of The Haven House, told the Lansing State Journal, “What we're hoping is that by the end of the month the shelves aren’t looking bare, as they have been.” She added, “I think we’re all holding our breath and hoping that the donations come in again. You don't know how everyone got hit, with this economy.”

Meanwhile, regional food banks in Colorado are facing similar challenges. Leona Martens, executive director of the Weld Food Bank, told the Rocky Mountain News that her supply is lower than it has been in decades: “The gap between what we have and what is needed is widening,” she said, noting that many of the families who once donated food are now asking for it.

Similar shortages are also occurring in the Northeast. The Vermont Food Bank told The New York Times that its food supply has fallen 50 percent from last year.
Melanie Gosselin, executive director of the New Hampshire Food Bank, said that “This is not the old ‘only the homeless are hungry.’ It’s working people.”

Experts believe the drop in supplies results from a combination of rising demand, a drop in surplus farm products, and more efficient inventory monitoring by retailers, which reduces the excess items that they use to donate to food banks.

“We don’t have nearly what people need, and that’s all there is to it,” Greg Bryant, director of a Vermont food pantry, said. “We’re one step from running out.”

Reference: Find a food bank

If you are interested in donating, volunteering or receiving donations, visit Feeding America to find a food bank near you.

Related Topic: Recession inspires volunteerism and homegrown food

Although food donations seem to have dropped off recently, Americans do continue to donate both money and time. According to the Associated Press, “historically, charitable giving has been recession-proof.” In addition, President-elect Obama has encouraged Americans to volunteer.

This summer, a rising number of Americans planted gardens to cope with food costs and shortages. According to a findingDulcinea article, “In addition to feeding themselves with fruits and vegetables grown in the backyard, more Americans are growing produce for their neighbors. Programs such as ‘Grow a Row’ encourage home gardeners to cultivate extra produce for donation at local food banks and pantries.”

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