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CHICAGO -- More than 25 million Americans -- including nearly 9 million children and 3 million seniors -- receive emergency food assistance each year from America's Second Harvest-The Nation's Food Bank Network, representing an 8 percent increase since 2001, according to a new report sponsored by Altria, parent company of Kraft Foods.
The report, "Hunger in America 2006," based on 52,000 face-to-face interviews with people seeking emergency food assistance, and surveys of more than 30,000 agencies, is the largest, most comprehensive study ever conducted on domestic hunger, according to America's Second Harvest, which commissioned the project.
"It is tragic and alarming that more and more people are relying on emergency food assistance in the United States, where we produce enough food to feed every hungry person in the world," said Robert Forney, president and c.e.o. of America's Second Harvest.
About 70 percent of the clients seeking emergency food assistance are living below the federal poverty line, and nearly 40 percent have at least one adult working in their household. Seventy percent of clients are living in food-insecure households -- not knowing where they will find their next meal. Thirty-three percent of those food-insecure clients reported experiencing hunger -- that is, being completely without a source of food.
"Millions of Americans rely every month on the agencies we serve. Millions of others are living less than one paycheck away from hunger," continued Forney. "When people hit sudden hard times, including illness, loss of a job, or disruption in health insurance, they are forced to turn to the America's Second Harvest for help."
Many of the 52,000 clients reported having to make difficult choices between food and everyday necessities. More than 40 percent reported having to choose between paying for utilities or heating fuel and food, 35 percent had to choose between paying for rent or a mortgage and food, and 32 percent reported having to choose between paying for medical bills and food.
America's Second Harvest is the largest charitable hunger-relief organization in the country, with more than 200 food banks and food-rescue organizations serving all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. America's Second Harvest Members distribute more than 2 billion pounds of food to 45,000 emergency agencies each year, including 29,600 soup kitchens, 5,600 food pantries, and 4,100 emergency shelters.
For more information on the report, visit www.hungerinamerica.org.