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More New Yorkers Facing Food Challenges this Thanksgiving

November 24, 2008

New York, NY — The nation's financial problems are growing...and that's reflected in the number of middle-class New Yorkers needing help to put food on the table. Randi Dresner, president and CEO of Island Harvest, says local demand for food help is so great that many New York food pantries now limit families to one visit per month, and the amount of food in each bundle is being reduced.

By the third week of the month, many people don't have enough to eat, she says. She blames the turbulent economy for changing the face of hunger in the state.

"The new clientele for emergency food programs is the middle class. People who were once giving and supporting organizations like Island Harvest now are finding themselves on the other side of the fence, asking for help."

Dresner says middle-class New Yorkers are not accustomed to taking handouts, so they often wait until they are in a very deep hole before asking for help.

Meanwhile, the USDA just released its household food security report for 2007. "Hunger" is no longer listed as a category, but one in ten households experienced "food insecurity." Dresner says the numbers probably are worse now, since the 2007 statistics don't reflect the current economic slowdown.

Food pantries depend greatly on the "spirit of giving" this time of year. Sheryl Smith, chief operating officer of the Barry and Florence Friedberg Jewish Community Center, says her group recently contributed more than 1,000 pounds of food gathered during the Jewish Holidays by six local synagogues.

"It's a really important time for them to think about other people and not just think about themselves. They really brought in loads of food. And they haven't finished giving it all out ... now we're working with kids from different communities and they're doing baskets for Thanksgiving, which also will go to families in need."

Last year, Island Harvest had requests to provide 20,000 frozen turkeys for holiday dinners in November and December. This year, the need has increased to 25,000 birds, and they're still thousands short. Information about how to help is available at www.islandharvest.org.

The USDA report, "Household Food Security in the United States, 2007," is available at www.ers.usda.gov.

Michael Clifford/Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY