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MT Families, Food Banks Squeezed by Food, Fuel Costs

May 13, 2008

Helena, MT – It's a double-whammy for food banks in Montana: high food and fuel prices are increasing families' requests for food relief, while those same costs are making it harder to supply the food necessary to satisfy the demand.

Mark Brennan, development director for the Montana Food Bank Network says, compared to last year, his organization has seen a 13 percent increase in food requests in the first three months of this year. He fears things will get worse, especially for working families, as schools close for summer vacation.

"Kids, for example, are heading off into what should be their ideal season, and yet hunger knocks at their door, because the school breakfasts and lunches are not going to be available for them."

Brennan is hopeful that the new U.S. Farm Bill will provide some help, as federal spending for food stamps and other food relief has been boosted in the most recent Congressional compromise between Senate and House versions. He also cites a donation of 50,000 pounds of potatoes by the Washington Foundation as a huge help, and says his agency is working on expanding its warehouse to help meet growing demand.

Ashley White, of the Children's Defense Fund, says Montana isn't alone when it comes to hungry families, and dealing with kids' hunger should be a top national priority.

"It's just shameful that, in this richest nation, there are 12.6 million children living in households struggling against hunger in this past year."

More information can be found on the Web sites of the Children's Defense Fund (www.childrensdefense.org) and the Montana Food Bank Network (www.mfbn.org).

Deborah Smith/Eric Mack, Public News Service - MT