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Food Worries Affect Young and Old Nevadans for Holidays

November 24, 2008

Las Vegas, NV – The nation's fiscal woes hit the Nevada housing market this summer and now--just in time for the holidays--they're being felt at meal time, too. It's especially tough for older citizens and families with children, according to Helyse Sina with the Food Bank of Northern Nevada. She says local requests for food help are up by 38 percent in her part of the state, and three-quarters of the recipients are children or senior citizens.

"Children are basically victims of their family circumstances, and seniors...if you are 80 years old, you cannot go back to work, and whatever you get from Social Security is basically what you are stuck with."

In the Food Bank's "Kids Café" program, the number of children needing food help is up 21 percent, Sina says. That program feeds children up to 18 years of age.

Meanwhile, the USDA just released "Household Food Security in the United States, 2007." In this report, the federal agency no longer lists hunger as a category, but it states that one in 10 households experienced "food insecurity." Sina says the numbers likely are worse now, since the 2007 statistics do not reflect the 2008 economic slowdown.

Ten branches of the Washoe County Library system are making it easy for patrons to fight hunger. For the tenth year running, patrons may pay overdue book fines with a can of food, library spokesperson Bonnie Saviers says. Last year, the program brought in 13,000 pounds of food.

"That would be the equivalent of more than 13,000 meals. A lot of people, we found, actually bring food donations to the library even if they don't have overdue fines. They find it a very easy and convenient way to support the Food Bank, so that's another great benefit of this program."

Saviers says the program also benefits the library, because librarians get overdue books back a lot faster than by issuing traditional fines. Most of the food collected by the library system goes to the Food Bank of Northern Nevada, although food contributed to Incline Library stays in Lake Tahoe and goes to the Project Manna program.

Michael Clifford/Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NV