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Study: AZ Emergency Food Aid up 85 Percent Since 2006

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February 5, 2010

PHOENIX - Nearly one-in-seven Arizonans needed emergency food help last year, according to a new study. The report, from Feeding America, a nationwide alliance of 200 food banks, reports an 85-percent increase in emergency food assistance in the state since 2006; nearly double the national average.

Vicki Escarra, president of Feeding America, says many people are coming to food banks for the first time.

"We all know someone who is really struggling with losing a job, losing hours, with not having enough food to eat, with having to make trade-offs around rent or food or medicine. The good news is, everybody can do something to help."

The Arizona supermarket industry has really stepped up to help meet the growing need for emergency food, says Escarra.

"We've seen very significant increases in retail pickup, which is going into grocery stores and picking up food. Phoenix does a beautiful job, pickup from close to 300 grocery stores."

Escarra, who is visiting Arizona this week, says corporations, foundations and individuals are responding with increased donations of food, money and time. She says existing food bank volunteers are putting in significantly more hours. But, because of the employment outlook, Escarra thinks it'll be as long as five years before the need for emergency food aid will decline significantly.

"We are serving 12 million more people nationwide than we were four years ago. While our food banks are doing just an exemplary job with the help of many, many donors, we still have more need than we're able to accommodate."

Feeding America estimates the nation's food banks are currently able to help about 85 percent of those seeking emergency food aid.

The national report, Hunger in America, is at www.feedingamerica.org. A summary of Arizona findings is at www.azfoodbanks.org.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ