Recession means hunger at holidays for many

Tue Dec 23, 2008 1:25pm EST
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By Carey Gillam

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - A sign outside the Shawnee Community Center states a clear goal: "A World Without Hunger." But inside, that goal is getting harder to reach.

Senior citizens, young parents and middle-aged working poor were among those lining up at the suburban center this week, quietly collecting handouts of pasta, canned vegetables, peanut butter and other staples to stave off hunger.

"We are seeing more people this Christmas than last Christmas for sure," said Shawnee Community Center volunteer Verta Morris. "A lot of people are hungry."

Long lines are common sights these days at food pantries across recession-hit America.

U.S. food banks have reported a 30 percent rise in requests for emergency food assistance, according to a report issued last week by Feeding America, which supports 63,000 agencies and is the nation's largest hunger relief organization.

The group said the situation is expected to grow worse in 2009 amid rising unemployment, and a consortium of charity groups are calling on Washington for more federal assistance. U.S. employers cut 533,000 jobs in November alone, the highest monthly number in 34 years.

"We're in a crisis. Absolutely," said Feeding America spokeswoman Maura Daly.

BREAKING POINT   Continued...

<p>Men line up for plates of food at the Community Kitchen in the Harlem section of New York City December 10, 2008. REUTERS/Mike Segar</p>