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Demand skyrocketing at local food banks

June 3, 2009 6:16:57 AM PDT
More people are turning to Los Angeles food banks to help feed their families during the down economy. The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank is shipping 1 million pounds of food per week to keep up with the increased demand. The agency supplies food to about 500 food pantries in L.A. County.

The agency's latest report shows local food pantries are seeing more than a 30-percent increase in demand compared to this same time last year.

"They're coming to food pantries seeking food assistance because of the tough economic times are really hitting them hard," said Michael Flood, president and CEO of the L.A. Regional Food Bank.

Even though donations are up from last year, the demand for help is much higher. During the first four months of this year, officials say an average of 231,359 people received assistance from food pantries each month in L.A. County.

"Volume is at an all-time high, and the food pantries and other agencies are really working as hard as they can to provide assistance," said Flood.

Food bank officials say many people from middle class households are seeking help for the first time because of state budget cuts and rising unemployment.

"Well, we're seeing both people in the low-income brackets and a lot of people who are solidly middle class up to six months ago or nine months ago," said Flood. "With the high unemployment rate of Los Angeles County, it's put so many families in a situation where they never thought they would be in, where they need to go seek assistance from a local agency in their community."

With the state's social programs about to be cut, the demand for help is expected to be even greater.

"The community has responded very well, so we're really pleased the fact that we've been able to increase our distribution by 33 percent this year compared to last year. But with this additional pressure, we're a little bit worried," said Flood.

Orange County's food bank says it is experiencing the largest increase in demand for food assistance ever. This summer the Second Harvest Food Bank is going from 20 to 28 sites to serve children meals.

Both agencies are asking for more help from the community through donations and volunteering.

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